It was in 2020 that I finally came all the way out of the closet after three years being on estrogen. I made a post on Facebook detailing my gender identity and that I was now going by the name Charlotte. And I was itching to play hockey again, a passion of mine since I was a kid and led me to play hockey for Old Dominion University’s men’s club team.

Although I didn’t lace up my skates and play again until March 2022 due to concerns related to the pandemic, when I finally started playing I decided the best move for me was to be as openly queer as possible, and not try to hide my identity or blend in. I needed to be my true self for my own sake, regardless of how hard it was going to be.

Donning pink tape on my stick and a “Hockey Is For Everyone” Pride sticker on my helmet, I began to play a few pickup games at Chilled Ponds — the local rink based in Chesapeake, Virginia. I began seeing some of my old college teammates, and was pretty scared about how they would react to seeing me there. I assumed they had already heard about me coming out.

At first, I just tried to avoid them out of fear. At one point, one of my former college teammates came from the other side of the bench and sat next to me and began to strike up a conversation — I think he could tell I was nervous. He first asked whether I was going by Charlotte now. He then said that it wasn’t his place to judge, and he made a conscious effort to use the correct name and pronouns.

I was surprised. It turned out that all my prior fears were baseless. After the game, I went over to my former teammates and we hung out like the old days. I didn’t want to be seen as different. I was still the same person, but simply now had the words to say that I was transgender. It felt like nothing had changed between me and my teammates — there was still the same respect — and that’s all I ever wanted.

Hockey has always been a huge part of my life. As the child of a huge Boston Bruins fan dad and a figure skater mom, I first picked up a hockey stick at 2-years-old and started ice skating at 6. I started off playing roller hockey with the neighbor kids and later developed into playing on the Peninsula Prowl hockey club at 14. I played both goaltender and wing.

It was around this time that I realized something was different about me compared to my peers. I started recognizing that I was experiencing gender dysphoria.

At first, I didn’t really know what to do about it. Society had programmed me into believing I was a male simply because of what body parts I had. It took years of questioning my gender before I finally did something about it.

It culminated to where I was screaming and crying, looking at myself in the mirror and knowing that I hated my appearance and the way people interacted with me. At this point I had decided that I needed to do something about this and start trying to rectify my gender dysphoria. I began seeing a therapist who specialized in concerns with gender identity.

I felt lost with what to do about my gender identity. I later reached out to fellow hockey player Harrison Browne — the first openly transgender athlete in a professional team sport. I had asked about coming out and how to navigate coming out and being an openly transgender athlete. He told me that “there is always light at the end of the tunnel,” and that there were days where he questioned himself. He advised me to take every day in stride, using them each as an opportunity to discover who I really am.

I began playing college hockey for Old Dominion University in the American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Men’s Division III in fall 2014. I served as the team’s backup goaltender during my freshman season. After our starting goalie had left the team, I was poised to become the next starter. However, my fifth concussion derailed my competitive career and I never played another game for the team.

Finally feeling liberated from my fears being out, I took the opportunity to restart playing adult league at Chilled Ponds as a forward. Playing hockey again feels great and nothing feels better than scoring goals — I can’t wait until I score my first one again. It has been a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

For any athlete struggling with coming out or discovering their identity, nothing will feel better than lifting that weight off your shoulders. You can’t feel free unless you tap into yourself and discover what makes you happy one step at a time. It can be a long journey. Connect with people along the way who can help you out — you won’t be alone even if you sometimes feel like you will.

Charlotte Jobe played ice hockey for Old Dominion University from 2014-16 and came out as transgender after her competitive career had ended. She graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics. She can be reached at [email protected]

Story editor: Jim Buzinski

If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim ([email protected])

Check out our archive of coming out stories.

If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.