By: Taylor Costella, Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, Athlete Ally Ambassador
One of my favorite memories from hockey is from the last year of my amateur hockey career, when I played for the Westland Mustangs 19u AA girls team. We worked so hard all season, and finally The Irish South Bend Cup Tournament was here. I’ll never forget that moment at the end of the tournament when we were presented with the Irish South Bend Cup for the third time in a row. When I saw that cup, it meant so much more to me than any trophy — it symbolized my team’s hard work and our love for not only the game of hockey, but each other. I knew then that in this team, I found a new family that would be there for me no matter who I was, or who I loved.
When I first started playing hockey, I was the only girl on my team and one of the very few in my local organization. Once I got older, I started playing on an all girls team and began to realize that there were stereotypes for girls that played a “boys” sport. Soon enough, I had many people ask me if I or if any of my teammates were lesbians or if we wanted to be boys. These stereotypes made it very hard for me to come out as gay to my friends or others who asked this. I felt as though if I said the truth, they would have the satisfaction of being right and then believe that the majority of girls who played hockey were lesbians after all.
My journey being openly gay in hockey hasn’t been too hard for the most part so far. I first came out when I was sixteen to my now fiancée, Leah. After that, I came out to my parents, and then to my coaches and teammates. All of my teammates and coaches accepted me for me when I decided to come out and it felt great. I did face some issues along the way though. When I first told my coach, he wasn’t sure how some of the girls and/or parents would feel about me being in the locker room with their daughters. It made me feel as if, all of the sudden, I was perceived as someone who would disrespect the privacy of others. Thankfully, when I did come out to the rest of the team, there were no problems with this, although that should never have been something I needed to fear people would think about me. I know now that the reason some people may have thought this was because of lack of educational resources on how to equally treat LGBTQI+ people in sports.
When I step on the ice, all of my worries, fears, and problems go away. I don’t have to think about anything else besides playing the game I love with my friends. I know that this isn’t always the case for everyone who plays sports. Many others still have to deal with being told that the sport they play isn’t for boys/girls, being asked if they or their teammates are gay, or asked if they want to be the opposite sex all because of the sport they play and love.
Those questions should never be asked just because of a sport you play. All athletes, including transgender athletes, should be able to fully express themselves in sports and feel no shame. I have had many friends and teammates who are feminine and are gay and some who are masculine and aren’t. How someone dresses and/or acts has nothing to do with their sexual orientation. I am excited to work with Athlete Ally to eradicate stereotypes and to help ensure equal treatment and opportunities for all LGBTQI+ athletes.
Photos courtesy of Taylor Costella
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