Samuel Smurlo – 2016-2017 Essay

One year after signing up and six months after starting my transition I got an email, addressed to my pre-transition name, asking if I was still interested in playing in the MGHA. And part of me panicked. Is the league weird about trans players? Do they recruit a requisite number of men vs women? How do I get changed in a locker room full of strangers?

But I decided to reply and at least see what happened. “I am still interested in playing. Just a heads up, I’ve started transitioning. I go by Samuel now, and am on testosterone. I don’t know if that impacts anything, but figured I should let you know.”

Shortly thereafter I received an email. “Congratulations Samuel! I’ve updated our spreadsheet to reflect your name. Our league was created to specifically support you and the rest of our community, so I’m hoping you’ll join us this fall 🙂 We’re just beginning to ramp up our new player program for people interested in joining.” It was one of the most relieving feelings. There were no questions, only support and enthusiasm.

That first season with the MGHA was tumultuous. I had never been on skates before, I was woefully out of shape, and my personal life was something of a mess. I tried to be helpful and involved both on and off the ice, but was feeling like I was holding everyone else back. Nevertheless, I stuck with it, mostly because I still didn’t have very many friends in Madison and having something to do was better than nothing.

And then my second season came around. And I was asked to be a mentor for new players. We were at one of the first new player orientations, sitting in the grass outside of Hartmeyer doing an ice breaker that definitely pushed more people out of their comfort zones than a standard ice breaker would. I was talking to a new player, lamenting many of the struggles I’d been having with my family since coming out as trans; without missing a beat she said “That’s okay, I can be your family, if you want.” And that’s when it really hit me. It isn’t really about the hockey. It’s about finding the community you need and the hockey is an added benefit.