Skye Zitkus – 2016-2017 Essay

I have tried to write and rewrite this. What MGHA hockey means to me is a very real acceptance, encouragement, support and a caring community that I have never experienced before. Ever. Really, I mean it! It has been absolutely amazing and I have grown as an individual that I never thought possible without the support and encouragement of everyone I’ve met through MGHA. I hope everyone can see it beaming through my grin every time I’m at the rink and on the ice!

I came out as trans over 15 years ago and before that I struggled with understanding and accepting my self identity. Prior transitioning I have been the butt end of lifelong intense bullying besides being raised by ultra conservative & religious parents whom continuously write me out of their life. Severe social anxiety and depression have always been my companion because of this. Just how I survived my teen years is still a mystery to me and I almost didn’t, I will always bear the scars of survival. My saving grace may have been my naturally introverted self, happy to wander the world on my own and finding solace in nature all around me. But it has also been my burden to carry all those hurtful years and not shed those harmful layers of myself. It has held me back from living a full and beautiful life that we all are capable of, that includes feeling that I could safely participate in team sports and interact as a social being.

As a trans individual, nothing about team sports screamed safety. The locker rooms alone were a terrifying experience that I still have nightmares about, so I tended to avoid most sports activities despite my interest. I played briefly in HS softball only to be kicked off due to depression at the time and again picked it up later in life, but I never really felt I fit in with the all women team I was on.

That said, I had also never even watched a full game of hockey, let alone play. Yet, I immediately fell in love with the game after a friend invited me to watch her play, thank you Michelle, I am eternally grateful!! Sitting in the bleachers I felt a camaraderie on the ice that I never was able to experience before. Plus the sounds of hockey were amazing! Skates on ice, puck hitting sticks and goalie pads, players whizzing by, it all lulled me in before I even knew what hit me.

As soon as I signed up, I was welcomed to a community that not only promoted, but actively engaged with members in a healthy and caring manner. From teaching how to be inclusive amongst ourselves, to watching experienced players encouraging and teaching the new members that were learning how to skate from scratch. Never have I ever experienced such compassion from a diverse community like ours. I dare say that after the first day orientation, I went home and cried. Cried from relief and realization that this is truly a safe space and I really did feel this was home.

After my first game, which I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time, hockey became a metaphor in the rest of my life. If you fall, and yes you are going to fall ever so ungracefully, then just get back up and play on. No one ever ridiculed the fall, but instead will cheer your effort. Miss the puck, try again and again. Sooner or later it will connect and damn, it feels good! Going through a tough divorce and struggling with finding a community it was perfect timing and just what I needed.

Out on the ice, I was nervous beyond belief, but somehow I managed to stick with it, keep showing up to try again and I actually started to listen to the encouragement of my teammates. No one in my life really told me that I was good enough or supported me through the tough moments. To hear fellow teammates cheer me on was nothing I was prepared for and I loved seeing how we all progressed as players, by simply enjoying playing hockey together every Sunday night.

I realized how much we all can accomplish through supporting each other, showing that no matter where you came from we all matter to the team and community. My first season was full of personal triumphs and I’m truly thankful for all of my teammates helping make it an amazing hockey experience. This is what true community is, and it resides right here with the MGHA.