“What Gay Hockey Means to Me” by Jen Clausen
Just like every other grade school kid, I was acutely aware of every minuscule difference separating me from my classmates. I was taller than everyone else. My family didn’t own a television. My mom made my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on überhealthy whole wheat bread instead of squishy Wonderbread. Clearly I was a freak.
In the locker room in seventh grade gym class a popular girl with no freakish tendencies asked me if I was a dyke. I said I didn’t know. I had never heard that word before. I quickly learned what dyke meant, what gay meant. It meant bad, stupid, disgusting. The popular girl shouted for the gym teacher and announced that she didn’t feel comfortable sharing a locker room with me.
The more I heard about dykes and fags and homos, the more desperate I felt.”Please, please, please don’t let me be gay,” I begged in my head. “I’m already different enough. I’m already tall and weird.” Tall girl. Weird girl. Gay girl?
Somehow I got trapped in this stage of desperate denial. Even when I knew for sure, in my heart of hearts, that I liked girls, I told myself it was just a phase. It would go away. If I acted like a “normal girl” on the outside, I would feel like a “normal girl” on the inside.
So I kept my guard up and made many misguided attempts at being straight. I zombied my way through middle school and high school and into college. I still wouldn’t allow myself to show on the outside what I felt on the inside.
After college I moved back home. I floundered about socially for a year, and then finally decided to reach out. I happened to mention to my friend and painting buddy, Chris Gargan, that I might possibly maybe perhaps be interested in playing a team sport. He suggested I come play gay hockey because “it’s beginner friendly and you get to wear lots of padding.” That has certainly been my experience. It is nice to be part of a group where I can have fun, learn a new skill, and feel free to be myself. I am just now starting to feel comfortable with myself after feeling like a awkward misfit for so long. Self acceptance has been very liberating.
And (to my relief) my utter lack of hockey experience has not been a deficit. In September I could barely skate or hold a stick, much less do these two things at once. My legs flailed comically as I thrashed about with my hockey stick. My backside got more ice time than my skates. I was offsides at least once per period. And I was head-over-heels in love with hockey.
I still flounder diligently on the ice. I practice skating at the Shell. I go to UW hockey games. And I am meeting so many wonderful people with all sorts of backgrounds who, like me, have become hockey addicts. As I am learning about hockey, I am learning about myself. I am learning to just get out on the ice and play even if it’s scary. I am learning to just be myself even it’s scary. The MGHA is a fun, friendly, supportive organization. I wish I had found a group like this years ago. But it’s good to be here now.