Category: 14-15 Essays

Matthew Dorris – 2014-2015 Essay

For the Laughs

I grew up in Texas, a place where football is famously king. Sports in my mind were the height of machismo culture: bigger and stronger meant better, “you got to hit somebody,” and athleticism and hand-eye coordination were essential. The idea of sports was always off-putting to the stereotypical science nerd, choir boy, and boy scout. When my circle of gay friends and I were asked about sports, the conversation usually went something like this

“So, what did you think of the Lakers last night?” ”I don’t know. I heard they beat the Yankees in the Super Bowl, but I don’t really follow soccer, so I could be wrong.” A few years later when I made it to graduate school in chemistry, still singing, and enjoying yoga when I could attend, I had someone propose I take up ice hockey. The idea was laughable. Looking back, I still laugh not only because a person like me loves hockey but also because the idea that anything else would happen was silly.

To be fair, I had reason to believe joining an ice hockey league was a foolish idea for me. It is the sport with the highest rate of concussions, probably partially because it is one of the only sports where fighting is latently encouraged. I joined the MGHA because a friend convinced me to join. The first thing I was told and reminded was that MGHA was a no-check league and that having fun and taking care of one another was always the first priority. Was I terrible at the start? They put a gay Texan on ice skates and gave him a stick. Of course, comedic folly ensued. The only way I knew how to stop was running into a wall. However, all I was given was encouragement and ways to improve. The encouragement was so strong and my desire to improve for myself and my team so great that I jumped into extra practice by myself or in groups over lunch breaks and weekends.

By the time I started with the MGHA, work as a graduate student including large amounts of travel, had removed my strong sense of self and left me with no place that felt like home. Within a couple weeks, I was showing up hours early to games. Hartmeyer became my second home because I was always welcomed and nurtured as family. Hockey was my means of self-improvement and where I could encourage and be encouraged by others. By the end of the season, my team captains declared me most improved. They said it with pride in their eyes.

Do I still fall? Yes, I still fall almost every game chasing a puck like a dog after a car. I laugh every time I do. I know it is right to be happy in that moment for my team and I will make that into a learning experience too. I laugh because it gives me the boisterous energy to get back up just as MGHA gives me the boisterous energy to be myself on and off the ice.

Tommy Dougherty – 2014-2015 Essay

My name is Thomas Dougherty, but to the league I’m known as Tommy, Xena, and Warrior Prince. I’m 22 years old, and I identify as gay/pansexual. In 2013, I moved to Madison, Wisconsin from New York.

Hockey has always been a part of my life ever sense I was really young. When I was 11 years old my uncle Bobby would take me to the New Jersey Devils games so frequently that the Meadowlands Sports Complex became a place that I started to consider a second home. In 2003, I witnessed the Devils defeat The Mighty Ducks and win the Stanley Cup. It was also the day I got to meet one of my idols Martin Broduer and told him that he is the reason I am learning how to be a goalie.

In 2005, my family sent me to Westchester Skating Academy. It was there I played with my first team and learned how to skate better. With my persistence, I learned how to become a goalie even at a camp based around being a player. After graduation from WSA in 2006, I attended a summer program with Army Hockey Camp. Which was hell on ice, intense training for 6 weeks. Eventually, money got tight, and I could no longer afford new equipment, so hockey had to be put on hold.

2012 happened to be one of the toughest and most challenging years of my life so far. After graduating in 2011 from Red Hook High School, located in Red Hook, NY. I moved out of my aunt’s and moved out on my own and started attending SUNY Ulster Community College. I was the only kid in my first year that was taking 18 credits, having class Monday through Friday 7 am to 7 pm, while trying to keep a job, pay my bills, and do my homework. I started to break down, and by the end of my first semester of college, I was at my breaking point, which ended with me in a hospital for 3 months, causing me to withdraw from college. During my hospital stay, my mother had gotten arrested, which I discovered by her photo being front page of the newspaper. Following that, 3 weeks later, my stepfather of 16 years had passed away. Despite all the obstacles that were thrown at me, I continued to try to get a grasp on my life while maintaining happiness.

When 2013 came around, I basically lived with my best friend Kyle. I was a cart pusher for Wal-Mart (WORST JOB EVER). Kyle told me that he was planning on moving to Florida in May of 2013. During the same time, our close friend George and his boyfriend Michael were moving to Madison, WI., which left me wondering what I was going to do with my life. The only opinion I felt feasible was to live out of my car, until I found a place to live. Well, as my best friends, they weren’t going to allow that. Kyle ended up deciding to move with George and Michael, to Madison, and told me I had no choice that I was moving with them and that I had two weeks to pack my things. After 23 hours, with a U-haul and my car attached to the back of it, here I am. I walk into the door to our new apartment with tears of joy.

Being I was new to the area and single, I downloaded the app Grindr, trying to get an understanding about the gay community out here. Patrick Farabaugh contacted me asking if I was interested in playing for the Madison Gay Hockey Association. I was very skeptical when he asked me to meet him for coffee at first. For one, I’m talking to someone on Grindr about signing up for a sports league? When I finally met up with Patrick, my first response was “darn it sounds like a lot of fun, but sadly I have absolutely no money.” After reassuring me that there was a scholarship that would cover the cost of my equipment and physically taking me to get my equipment, I started thinking that this would actually work, and the excitement of me actually playing hockey again became real.

I remember the first day I entered our first practice at Hartmeyer Ice Arena walking in to the locker room not knowing anyone and having to remember how to put my goalie pads on by myself. I remember looking around the locker room as everyone was getting his or her gear on perfectly well, saying to myself “Pull yourself together Tom.” I remember having issues putting on my leg pads by myself, and the person next to me (Sebastian Renfield) saw that I was struggling and offered to help me put on my pads. When I finally made it out on the ice and met everyone I felt instantly welcomed into the group with open arms.

When people ask me to describe what MGHA is the best and only description I have is we are a family that gets together every Sunday to play hockey and encourage each other to strive to do better. There is no judgment. If you fall, you fall; no one will judge you because at one point in the league they were just like you. Then I get the questions like “ Why Gay hockey? What makes it Gay?” Well, I can tell you, we don’t prance around in tights and sing Kumbaya, though if you want to you are more then welcome to… just not during a game.Sorry. Why gay hockey? The word Gay in the MGHA is to show community and acceptance. “Does that mean you only have to be Gay to play on the league?” No, there are plenty of straight allies, along with many different sexual orientations and the league welcomes all genders. We are a group of people that accept equality, and we leave discrimination and ridicule outside the safety zone. What makes it gay? -A bunch of gay jokes, jokes about goalie’s butts in the air all the time, listening to Lady Gaga and Madonna playing over the loud speakers, to me running around doing my Xena Warrior Princess battle cry on the ice. But seriously, we aren’t playing a different sport, we are playing hockey by the same rules. We just make it equal for everyone to have a fun time, not lose any teeth, and certainly, so everyone can have a great time and have fun.

MGHA is stability and it is also a community family that brings everyone together. The only thing is, you get what you put into it, if you just show up for the games and leave, and show no interest in getting to know the other players you wont actually get the full experience. Honestly you will be missing out. Which would be really sad. If you’re questioning if the MGHA is for you, the real question, what are you afraid of? We are here to welcome you with open arms.

This season was my second season with the Madison Gay Hockey Association, it has given me the ability to open up and create an escape from the four jobs I have. I love playing hockey and I love my new family more and more every day.

My name is Thomas Dougherty, I’m a goalie for Blue Bayou, Don’t Ask Don’t Teal. For my family the Madison Gay Hockey Association. My new home in Hartmeyer Ice Arena. I’m a Warrior Prince. I was also a winner of The MGHA All The Way for 2014-2015. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to sign up and join my family!

Thank You For Reading
– Tommy

Gabriel Loredo – 2014-2015 Essay

Oh boy, where to begin. Never before has a split second decision in the middle of the night turn out so well for me before. I had an appointment with my therapist earlier that day and she had suggested that I sign up for gay hockey for at least a month. I had been scrolling through the website for hours before I decided to send a message to the league on Facebook. I was very nervous to say the least. I have never been the most athletic or the one to fit in, I left that to my older brother.

Anyways, I will never forget the new member meeting. I had been emailing my mentor and I had just met her that day. As I sat on the grass outside of the Hartmeyer with the league, we talked about all of the different gender identities and how to be inclusive and respectful. I knew I had found the right group. I had just recently come out and started hormones earlier that year. I had lost so much and I was angry. I went into the league as an angry and scared boy.

As the season went on, I started becoming stressed. My work life, home life, and family life were bringing me down as the sun started not shining as much. I have always felt alone and I thought I still was. I had tried something drastic that failed. When I returned to the league, I was met with overwhelming hugs and love. I realized that I had a family.

I still had my moments of doubt. I was a slow skater, I couldn’t handle a puck to save my life, and I never realized that my shift lasted longer than I was supposed to. Despite all that, I never felt as free as when I was on the ice. The cold air in my lungs, my feet hurting in my skates, and my helmet squeezing my glasses into the sides of my head all seem like they should feel unpleasant. But soon those feelings became feelings of life. I was alive on the ice.

I went into the league as a scared, angry boy with no sense of community and I came out as a whole different guy. Do I still have doubts and fears? Yes. But I don’t feel alone anymore because I know that I am not. Through encouragement on and off the ice, I made amazing friendships and realized how much I can accomplish. I just want to give all of my thanks to the MGHA for the patience and kindness that they have given me.

Rebecca Pfaff – 2014-2015 Essay

Doesn’t begin to sum up all the ways my time in MGHA has changed me (emotionally, politically, socially, ethically, etc…), but it is a start and my plane is about to take off. I’m not very good at editing so feel free to do so as you see fit.

I skate to the boards, throw myself over, struggle to catch my breath, and look up to the eclectic group in the stands.  There are students, cooks, and a lot of computer engineers. They are laughing, hugging, rocking babies, and enjoying a cold one. They are fat, skinny, short, tall, and everywhere on the gender spectrum. I am a resident doctor and learn all about the infectious diseases, mental health illnesses, and substance use disorders that plague the LGBT community. MGHA reminds me weekly that that is not the whole story.  Each week I am reminded of the wonderful, vivid lives my teammates lead.  These last two years they are the people who have renewed my passion for learning for the sake of learning and made me feel accepted and appreciated regardless of my skill or lack thereof.  MGHA has made me a better person and helped me maintain my sanity through this challenging period in my life.  I can’t imagine that I will ever feel so much affection for a crowd as viewed from the bench.

Paul Weisensel – 2014-2015 Essay

My name is Paul Weisensel. I recently completed my first season with the Madison Gay Hockey Association (MGHA). I want to tell you what the MGHA means to me. To do that, I first need to tell you a little bit about my childhood. I grew up in a very conservative Catholic family. Like all kids I went through puberty, starting at age five or six, and ending in my late teens. In that aspect I had a similar childhood to my peers.

However, I grew up as a gay youth trapped in an extremely bigoted world. I was constantly surrounded by hateful sermons and stereotypes. Homophobic slurs were often used by kids my age and older, especially on the playground. I can’t for the life of me remember an occasion when a kid I knew was chastised for using a homophobic slur, and yet sexist and racist slurs were not allowed and kids were punished for using them. It didn’t help that many adults used those same slurs. Being gay on television or in the movies or in classic novels was portrayed as being: a complete and utter disappointment to his or her parents, going to hell, psychologically unhinged, a perverted deviant, suicidal, and most definitely as someone who led a miserable existence.  I tell my friends that I survived growing up Gay and Catholic…if barely.

From a very young age, I had heard stories of gay youth and men getting beaten up in locker rooms, or even killed. One story that resonates with me to this day is when a U.S. Marine stationed in Texas had Come Out to some of his fellow Marines. They had pretended to be all right with it, but had actually conspired to take him out to some bars, get him drunk enough that they could attack him, tied him up with chains, and dragged him behind a pickup truck at high speeds until he died. They were all prosecuted for the crime. However, what stuck with me was that I had heard that the U.S. Marines were the closest brotherhood anywhere. If it could happen there, what was going to happen to me? I’m not sure all heterosexual people realize the amount of anxiety and fear LGTBQA youth deal with on a daily basis.

Participating in sports was something I first shied away from and later refused to engage in. I could not risk getting a boner in the showers or locker room and being found out. When I was old enough to dress myself and later when I could pick out my own clothes, I consistently chose dark clothing. I kept my head down a lot. I avoided people when ever possible. I didn’t realize then that I was suffering from depression. I refer to this as my ‘gray period’, which lasted through high school. I had no positive openly gay role models and no one to tell me that I was unique and wonderful and that I didn’t need to change.

I might very well have ended up just another statistic, another suicide or another runaway being pimped out, if it hadn’t been for two things. The first is the fact that I had a great single mom. She never uttered a single homophobic (or any other) slur.  In fact, she sat me down when I was a little kid and told me about how she grew up in a world where racism and sexism were common, but that this was not something she would tolerate in her household and that we are all created equal in the eyes of God. This gave me hope that one day I could have an honest relationship with my mother. I made myself a promise that one day I would be honest with her; I kept that promise, eighteen years  later. The second thing was Troop 102, Boy Scouts of America. I shutter to think of what might have happened to me, had I not had that ten plus years of wonderful education and mentoring, and all the great weekend and summer camping trips, free of any discrimination. We all wore a uniform; we were all equal. I grew up internalizing so much self-hatred that at times I felt as though I would explode. The Boy Scouts gave me a way to channel those negative emotions that were productive, healthy and laid the groundwork for me to form my moral compass and. Sadly, I earned my Eagle Scout Award at about the time the national argument over allowing openly gay scouts and leaders was heating up. All I could do was move on and pay it forward in other ways.

It wasn’t until my late teens when I was starting college that I began to truly consider that it was actually OK to be me. Up until then, I was ‘Playing Straight’; going through the motions, but not really living in a way that allowed me to truly create my own personal identity. I would ape others’ laughs, their mannerisms, their social behaviors instead of being myself, because I didn’t know who I was and was terrified of people finding out I was Gay. In college, removed from the suffocating affects of homophobic homilies in church (while surrounded by family and neighbors, not a one of whom ever stood up and complained or shook their head and walked out), I truly began to find myself. I did make some new friends, and began to socialize. Still, I really struggled, and for a long time never completely felt that I fit in anywhere. I had begun to have an honest relationship with my mother and siblings. Still, it was always hard to make friends, not knowing who was truly being sincere, but only on the pretense that I was heterosexual.

It didn’t help that I suffer from neurological disorders that make it seem as if I am consciously staring at people, or following them with my eyes across a room, when in fact I am in a dream state and unaware of what is happening. I will forever remember being heckled out of places like the LGBT Center on the UW Madison Campus as reverse discrimination at its worst. When my neighbors used permanent black markers to graffiti the outside of my residence hall door with homophobic slurs, and I tried to stand up for my rights, the student supervisor for my floor yelled at me, “We don’t do that here!” I went to talk to an associate dean in Bascom Hall about it, and I was told that UW Madison did not recognize being gay as a minority status, and therefore I could not so much as file a complaint.

All of this has a negative cumulative affect on a person. To make matters worse, the pastor who verbally tortured me as a child and young man performed many of the Holy Sacraments on most of my family, friends, classmates and many neighbors. When attempting to Come Out to relatives, I found out the hard way that people don’t want to associate some of the most important days in their lives, like their wedding, and the man who performed it, with decades of verbal abuse and a childhood filled with pain. I can empathize with what victims of physical assault must have to go through, when the assailant is someone the family loves and trusts unconditionally. An aunt once asked me what it was like growing up in our family. I answered, “Always together, forever apart.” Until parents grapple with what many kids are going through, and come to the realization that one or more of their children might very well not be heterosexual (and that it shouldn’t matter) this pattern of behavior laced heavily with denial with continue to be passed on to the next generation.

Last summer, I happened to find myself chatting online with Patrick Farabaugh, who founded the MGHA. I explained that I suffered from mild neurological disorders, and that I had never played hockey, but that I was very interested in joining. He was incredibly supportive and assured me that I would be welcome. I was so excited that I started researching how to play online. Within a few weeks, I had purchased all of my hockey gear, and was learning how to skate, opposite my mentor, David Hafner.

The last several months have been some of the best I can ever remember. I have been warmly welcomed into the league. The over one hundred members and their significant others/families have been very supportive of me. I have a mentor that taught me how to skate & play hockey. I have team and league mates I really enjoy playing with. I have made many new friends and can see myself playing in the MGHA for many years to come. I finally feel like I belong somewhere, like I am a part of something bigger than myself, in a positive way. It’s amazing how one random encounter like my online chat with Patrick can be the focal point for a life-changing set of events.

The MGHA and the staff at Hartmeyer Ice Arena and Madison Ice Arena has been nothing but supportive and professional during my first season. There is a warm, supportive LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere. I need to send out a big thanks to them for that. This allows for all our members, be they lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or straight allies, to really be at ease, be themselves in a way we are not always permitted to be. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to constantly improve upon my hockey skills and be apart of this wonderful community. I love my hockey family and am so grateful to be a part this wonderful organization. I look forward to many great season with all of you.

Drew White – 2014-2015 Essay

The leaves were copper colored with a hint of yellow and the sky was dancing with the most brilliant orange. My windows were down and the smell of fall hung heavy in the air. I drove slowly, taking in a moment that I knew would be revered for many years to come. As I peered out my windshield, the trees so tightly rooted along the lake, pulled back like the opening of a curtain before a much anticipated play. Towering before me, like a glowing lighthouse atop a hill, the Capitol greeted me. A sight, that to me, represented freedom and new beginnings. Under its protective glow, lying in bed for the first time that night, I felt at peace. The weight on my chest momentarily lifted, I felt more alive than I had ever had.

I fled to Madison in a moment of internal desperation. Seeking desperately to find a place in the world where I belonged. A place where breathing was natural and didn’t take concentration or effort. Although I survived the southern culture of my adolescence and early adulthood, the over exaggerated smile in many pictures were only a constant reminder of how empty I truly felt inside. Suffocating under the weight of my own insecurities, and fear of exposure, I fled. Little did I know that what awaited me was a salvation greater than what any little backwoods conservative church could provide. I found me and I was saved.

During my first week in Madison, I paraded around as an invasive tourist. I made Devils Lake, the Terrace, and the Capitol Square my playground. I gazed upon thousands of faces, each of whom had the potential to be my new best friend. I stood in awe as I watched two women walk around the square with a stroller and a set of newborn twins. I then caught myself gazing awkwardly as two young men embrace before exchanging a soft delicate kiss outside a restaurant on State Street. I felt nervous for them, as I anticipated slang and gestures to be hollered from the street. When no such reaction came, I knew Madison was home.

Later that night, as my newly found roommates and I were out for a drink, I was asked the dreadful question, “Are you single?” A question I loathed. And so, when the conversation turned to girls, as it had each time before, I played along like had my entire life. In that moment, I witnessed my paradise crumble under the weight of my own lies. My insecurities had followed me to Madison and it was still poisoning my very existence.

It took eight months from the day that I arrived in Madison to make any effort toward becoming a part of the community that I so desperately needed, and yet feared to know. As a person who knew very few individuals who identified as LGBT, my perception was tainted by the southern slang I had heard so often and the societal stereotypes portrayed on the television. An athlete from a very young age, my perception of the LGBT community did not match my perception of myself. In the midst of this 24 yearlong identity crisis, I discovered via Google the Madison Gay Hockey Association late one night. My first thought, “Gays don’t play hockey.” And yet again, there I was, an athlete myself, ascribing a societal stereotype that I knew I did not fit.

As I gazed at the endless mosaic of faces under the “players” page, I was comforted by the notion that I was not alone. Although I knew no one in the league, and was completely oblivious to their lives, I felt an instant connection. These individuals loved sports, played hockey, and had a shared experience that not even my best friends could understand. I was desperate to play.

The first night felt like the first day school. Awkward. The only knowledge of skating I had was the Mighty Ducks VHS Trilogy that I wore out as a child. I was so nervous about playing hockey that the idea that all the individuals on the ice were LGBT became a second thought. My main objective, “don’t fall.” Looking back, I forced myself to focus solely on the sport. A defense mechanism I’m sure, aimed at shielding myself from my true motives of just pining to be a part of the community. It wasn’t until a month later that I recognized that I was going to learn more from the people off the ice than I was going to learn about hockey on the ice.

Gay, straight, bi, lesbian, and/or trans*, regardless of the label, I had no more reasons hide. For the first time, for a few hours on Sunday night, I was able to take off my mask and be me for the first time in public. It did not take long for those Sunday nights to turn into community gatherings, hockey tournaments, and weekend get-a-ways. The individuals I met through the MGHA were becoming lifelong friends, and they were hearing my voice like no one had before them. Hockey, although important, was merely the conduit that brought me a community. Something I so desperately needed.

We as individuals believe we are strong. That we, through all the trials and constant reminders of being a minority, will overcome. More often than not we believe we can do it alone. We internally rationalize our own humanity and then live our lives like we were destined to do. However, without a community to keep us strong, to share mutual experiences, and grow in our journeys together, we crumble. It was Madison that save my life, but more importantly, it was the MGHA that gave me a voice. By sharing this experience with my teammates, on and off the ice, I am a stronger person. I am more confident than I have ever been and first time can honestly say, “I am proud of who I am.”