I started playing hockey when I was eight years old. I played for various house leagues and a few different travel teams as well. I wasn’t particularly good, seeing as I never made any of the teams I tried out for. But I played because I loved it. I loved the feeling of the cold air on my face and the feeling of gliding quickly across the ice.
The only significant achievement I accomplished with ice hockey is that I was on the inaugural girls varsity hockey team at my high school. I had to take a few years off after getting a couple of concussions, but when I was ready I joined my college’s girls club team for a semester. I loved being able to play competitive hockey again, but at the end of the semester I had to essentially choose between playing hockey and starting my medical/physical transition. I chose to transition because I had reached a low part in my depression and I knew I couldn’t put that off any longer.
After beginning my transition, a friend of mine introduced me to this program where you pay $12 and play a pickup hockey game. It’s all adults, and it’s pretty low-stress. It’s great when I need the exercise (which is often), and it’s a great way for me to do something I’ve always loved doing since I was a young child.
I haven’t played hockey since before I had top surgery, until last night. I hadn’t even considered this as a big milestone for myself until I was sitting in the locker room shirtless. Growing up, I never knew the words to describe what I was feeling and what I meant by, “I want to look different.” During practices, I’d stare at my reflection in the plexiglass boards and wished I didn’t have hair draping down out of my helmet. I wished my shoulders were wider. I wanted to look like a boy–because that’s what I was.
Playing hockey post-top surgery was such an incredible feeling. The shoulder pads sat flatly on my chest, and I could feel the cold air flowing beneath my jersey. Playing hockey now connects me with my younger self, who dedicated so much of his time to the sport. I feel like I’ve come full circle in this aspect of my journey, and that was only affirmed when I saw a picture of myself after the game.
In the picture, I see the person I always wanted to see looking back at me in the plexiglass. I see the guy I’ve always envisioned and dreamed I’d look like one day. I made it. Every time I see this picture I feel incredibly emotional. I made it.