All-transgender hockey team ‘like an instant family’

All-transgender hockey team ‘like an instant family’

TORONTO — The goals are big for an all-transgender hockey team known as Team Trans.

Comprised of more than a dozen players from Canada and the United States, it’s believed to be the first ice hockey team made entirely of transgender men, transgender women, and gender non-conforming athletes.

Honorary co-captain Harrison Browne says hitting the ice for the first time with the squad earlier this month was “life-changing,” and he hopes it can be an inspiration to athletes of all stripes who may struggle to find a safe space to be themselves.

“A lot of kids feel like they don’t have a place in sport because sport in the past and in history has been so binary — it’s always broken into men’s and women’s sides,” says the Oakville, Ont.-born Browne, whose professional career included championship wins with the female Metropolitan Riveters and the Buffalo Beauts in the U.S.

“There hasn’t been … a team that has basically said, ‘We support you, we are here for you.’ I think this is the first time it’s really ever been seen in hockey.”

That remarkable first game took place at a tournament in Cambridge, Mass., called the Friendship Series. They faced off against the Boston Pride, an LGBTQ+ hockey organization that hosted the scrimmage, even paying for the ice time and ordering the team’s pink-and-blue jerseys, says an appreciative Kat Ferguson, a forward who made the trip from Ottawa.

The players themselves connected through social media and began laying the groundwork for a possible gathering some eight months ago, adds Ferguson, among about four Canadians on the team.

While most of the players hail from the U.S. northeast, Ferguson says they included players from the Midwest and one from California.

Some had decades of experience like Ferguson and Browne, others were more casual players who just played recreationally. One had just learned to skate.

But Ferguson, who identifies as non-binary and prefers the “they” and “them” pronouns, says they were united by shared life experiences little seen in hockey.

“There was no stress about locker room situations. We all have different scars and different life experiences and stuff like that. We’re all kind of hiding things, usually in one way or another, when we play with our regular teams,” says Ferguson, who added they’ve been embraced by both male and female hockey teams in Ottawa.

“It was like an instant family. It was really special… Honestly, by the end of the weekend we were all sobbing because it was over. It was really emotionally amazing.”

The next goal is to make sure the games don’t end there.

Ferguson, 41, says plans are to arrange another round in Madison, Wis., in the spring, and again in Toronto in a year.

While they acknowledge hockey is evolving to embrace a broad array of fans, Ferguson says Team Trans can help further promote education, awareness, and acceptance. The sports environment is still ”very gendered,” they say, and that has forced many trans players to abandon team sports.

“In pretty much everything, you have to pick a gender and for a lot of people … they can’t pick a gender (or) there are a lot of years where our bodies are different and our hormones are different,” says Ferguson, who takes hormones to present as masculine.

Browne concurs, noting that even though his successful professional career included very supportive teammates, there were disconnects that grated.

“I was always called Brownie so I never really had to connect with my birth name but I was with female pronouns,” says Browne, who came out in 2016 and prefers he/him.

“And with rosters and everything like that when you’re announced on the ice you’re announced by your first name so it was a constant reminder.”

Co-captain and professional player Jessica Platt says Team Trans bonded immediately over such struggles. She, too, is considered a pioneer for coming out publicly in January 2018.

“For a lot of transgender people you can feel the hostility in the hockey atmosphere because it’s still very much a male-dominated sport where anyone who’s seen as different is typically made fun of or is an outcast,” says the 30-year-old Platt, who plays with the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association in Kitchener, Ont. The group is largely comprised of members of the former Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

“Only recently has women’s hockey been getting a lot more media attention.”

Browne, 26, agrees, saying what the sport needs are “options.”

“I don’t think that people should be necessarily put into so many different boxes and not be allowed to play,” says Browne, who played in the National Women’s Hockey League in the United States until retiring in 2018 to start his physical transition.

“If you want to play with other trans people then that (should be) there. Or if you want to play on an all-men’s team, that’s there for you. Or if you want to play on an all-women’s team, that’s there for you. If you want to play on a co-ed team, it’s there for you.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

Red Deer teacher Janelle Van Tetering had her students write letters to attach to Blankets of Hope, which will be donated to the Mustard Seed. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer teacher, students donate ‘Blankets of Hope’ to those in need

A Red Deer teacher and her students are giving warm blankets and… Continue reading

RCMP have charged a Sylvan Lake man for allegedly defrauding five people of more than $100,000.
Advocate file photo
20-year-old woman killed in collision: Blackfalds RCMP

A 20-year-old woman was killed in a collision on Saturday, says Blackfalds… Continue reading

Patrick Malkin, co-owner of The Granary Kitchen, says he wants the provincial government to lift COVID-19 restrictions that shutdown in-person dining. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer restaurant owner ‘frustrated’ in-person dining restrictions are still in place

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the restrictions won’t yet be eased this past Thursday

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Toronto Maple Leafs' Alexander Kerfoot, centre, tries to get the puck past Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom, right, as Noah Hanifin looks on during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Morgan Reilly’s three assists lifts Maple Leafs to 3-2 win over Flames

Leafs 3 Flames 2 CALGARY — Morgan Reilly’s three assists helped the… Continue reading

Green Bay Packers' Adrian Amos (31) reacts after intercepting a pass intended for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans during the second half of the NFC championship NFL football game in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Road warriors: Bucs win 31-26 at Green Bay, reach Super Bowl

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ road… Continue reading

People arrive to be tested for COVID-19 at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, January 24, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Too soon to know if Canada’s COVID-19 case decline will continue, Tam says

MONTREAL — It’s still too soon to know whether the recent downward… Continue reading

Flowers are seen at the front door of Dr. Denis Vincent's dental practice in North Vancouver, B.C. on March 31, 2020, after he died of COVID-19. The British Columbia Dental Association has written a letter to Premier John Horgan urging him to include dentists in a priority group for the COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dentists, teachers disappointed they won’t be prioritized for vaccine in B.C.

VANCOUVER — Dentists and teachers are among the groups that are disappointed… Continue reading

Indiana Pacers guard Justin Holiday (8) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward DeAndre' Bembry (95) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Anunoby’s hot hand helps short-handed Raptors beat Pacers

Raptors 107 Pacers 102 INDIANAPOLIS — OG Anunoby scored a season-high 30… Continue reading

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

OTTAWA — Under fluorescent lights, Wendy Muckle surveys the supervised consumption site… Continue reading

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) headquarters Connaught Building is pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Taxpayers’ watchdog sees complaints spike, raising worries about pandemic tax season

OTTAWA — Canada’s taxpayers’ ombudsperson says his office has seen a steep… Continue reading

Most Read