The Speech Given by Patrick Farabaugh, founder and inaugural director of the MGHA:
I just want to start by saying thank you to each and every one of you for being here tonight to share this moment together with us. This has been an unimaginable few months for the people you see here, both on the ice and with you in the stands, and for me personally it’s been an incredibly long journey that’s lead to this speech.
Please take a moment and look around at all the people sitting here with you tonight, Madison is a special place. The city you live in, that we all here call home, has given birth to and fostered something that quite literally now has the world watching.
What is here tonight started in 2002 when I learned how to play hockey with the New York City Gay Hockey Association. Discovering that league changed my life. From the first time I stepped out on the ice I felt like part of a family. I felt safe, and I began meeting people and making friends who helped me learn a healthy way of looking at myself and at the world. Those people helped me find my value and a sense of being proud of who I am. But truly nothing there can compare to what I’ve felt happen here.
Back when the MGHA was just a thought, before anyone here had stepped out on this ice together to create our group all that existed was an idea of what I wanted to see built. I wanted what I had in New York. I want you to know now though that all of you here tonight have far exceeded that vision.
Each of these players tonight have shown me something to be proud of, and given me reasons to love life and love who we are. From Sherry and her Gay Straight Alliance high school students, to Mark and his sister Angie getting to play and coach together on the same team…… all the way down to Lora Wilkinson’s simple smile. Together we’ve put a recognizable face on LGBT people that has reached and touched more individuals than I know how to count. One personal example: A few weeks ago my grandmother was profoundly affected by how human our lives really are after she came to watch me play for the first time in her life. It was her first time ever being around gay people. Playing in a gay league has brought us together, made us stronger and moved our visibility into a language that many people can easily understand and relate to — the language of sports.
It’s only been a few years since I was struggling to accept myself. Before finding the NYCGHA I wouldn’t let myself have gay friends. I felt lost and incredibly confused about my life. When I looked out at all of the gay people I could see, I was scared to reach out because all I knew how to see were other scared people.
For me, personally, tonight’s Championship Games and our entire season have been about heros. To me a hero is someone who has the courage to believe in himself and overcome fear to become bigger than who they are. Our first season has been full of these people who, by investing in themself have found and shown that necessary courage to become the visible kinds of role models that I wish had back when I was lost searching.
I would like to read to you a few of the letters that people have had the courage to write:
Here’s the first:
“You all should know now that I officially came out January 1, 2005 as a man. But this is about hockey. I left the UW-LaCross hockey team for a lot of reasons. But many of them had to do with my comming out. I wanted to play with guys and I didnt want to be ashamed of it. I didnt care if I wasnt as big as them. If I wasnt as fast. If I was the absolute worst guy on the team. That never mattered to me. I’d rather be ranked the worst on a team where I belong and can be myself rather than be good on a team that makes me live a complete and total lie. So I left the womens team. Out of no where along comes MGHA. When I thought I wouldnt find a way to play, MGHA came about. A co-ed league of LGBTQA hockey players. Heck yes. So now im back into it. Im dreaming about break aways and penalty shots and angles and keeping my head on a swivel. I love it.”
…And Here’s another….
“If it weren’t for you, I don’t think my parents would know that there is an accepting community of people in this generation “awaiting” my own generation. When I first started to question my own sexuality, my dad sort of said, “You know, if you decide to be straight, though, that’s cool, too!” and… “you have to really be careful… there are a lot of hateful people out there.” I told him… “Dad, when I’m with people like this I really believe in myself.” You’ve really made this an outlet not just for people your age in the community who are already out and want to try something new with people who are accepting… but for people who are trying to come out and are younger and already love the sport. I love Sundays. Thanks so much for this opportunity.”
….And just one last one….
“I had a great time playing tonight. It was the most fun I’ve had since I started playing. My team really worked well together tonight and everyone is improving so much. I know this probably doesn’t need to be said again, but I just wanted to thank you again for starting this league and putting so much effort into it. It has honestly changed my life. You pretty much created a community that I have wanted to have for as long as I can remember. It feels great to know that I have a place that I can feel like I fit in and have people that understand me on a deeper level.”
Those were written by our three youngest players, and I am very, very proud to say, they were written by my heros. Will Basil, Caity and Jay please come up to receive your medal.