Danielle McLean has had one constant in her life: hockey. Now, as an out transgender player in a women’s league, it’s where she’s found her community and support system.
McLean wrote about her experiences on the ice in an op-ed for CNN: “I’m a transgender player in a women’s hockey league. And that’s exactly where I belong.” In it, McLean, who’s senior editor at the news publication Smart Cities Dive, talks about the important role hockey has played in her life, from when she was undergoing chemotherapy as a high school senior to her male-to-female transition. Through all of life’s hardships, McLean always laced up her skates.
But over time, McLean felt uncomfortable playing in her adult men’s “beer league.” She was unsure whether she could physically hold up against her increasingly larger opponents, or if her teammates would accept her. McLean hid her body in the locker room and life away from it.
Two years after starting hormones, she joined a women’s hockey team in the Boston area. It made all of the difference.
“My teammates, with whom I shared a love of our sport, became a core part of my new social circle,” she writes. “Most of them knew that I was trans, but didn’t care. They accepted me as one of their own.”
Throughout the piece, McLean talks about attending teammates’ weddings and baby showers, and the bond she’s built with them. (She also played on Team Trans, the all-transgender hockey team that returned to the ice last year.)
With her essay, McLean attaches a human face to the fight against blanket bans on transgender women playing sports. While elite athletes like Lia Thomas and Emily Bridges garner international attention and scrutiny, the vast majority of transgender women just want to play with their peers.
As McLean poignantly articulates, sports are where many find community and lasting friendships. Nobody should be denied the opportunity to experience those joys.
You can follow Danielle McLean on Twitter.