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Meet the CWHL’s first transgender hockey player

Meet the CWHL’s first transgender hockey player

An interview with Jessica Platt

Born in Sarnia, Ontario, Jessica Platt has been playing hockey for her whole life. Despite that, her journey to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) has not been easy.

In high school, Platt knew she was transgender, and quit hockey because she felt she had to be someone she wasn’t. It took her a long time to accept herself, and then even more time for her to figure out how to go about transitioning and working up the courage to do it. After finishing high school, she decided to start hormone replacement therapy. With her family’s support, Platt began medically transitioning in 2012.

After getting back on the ice, she worked as an instructor and joined a recreational league. She became more interested in competitive options, so she tried out for the CWHL. In 2016, she was selected 61st overall pick in the CWHL Draft.

In January 2018, Platt made the decision to come out publicly and to her teammates.

See her Instagram post here.

Now, in her second year on the main roster for the Toronto Furies, Platt finds empowerment through her love of hockey. The Medium asked Platt about her story, her experiences as a trans athlete, and her advice for LBGTQ+ students.  

Why did you decide to come out publicly?

I decided to come out publicly because I think that visibility is incredibly important. If people can see other people like themselves following their dreams, succeeding, being happy, and in general living and loving life, then they might see that it’s possible for them too. I went through a lot of time in my life where I didn’t know anyone like me, and I didn’t imagine myself being truly happy or pursuing my dreams.

Hockey was something I felt that I had to give up eventually to go through transitioning. I felt like I had to choose one thing or the other. I want people to know that you can follow your dreams and be who you were meant to be. I had to quit, but I think being able to come back and be welcomed back shows how supportive sports can be. I think it’s important to have someone to look to who has gone through the things you’re going through or are going to go through as concrete evidence that it can be done. It might have been even slightly easier for me had I had that.
I think it’s important to help educate people. I was given a platform to create positive change and I couldn’t pass it up. I think that within the sports world there are a lot of roles that are pushed on people. In men’s sports, I always felt I had to be one certain way, and I tried to be who I thought I was supposed to be and who people expected me to be. I think this culture needs to change and that starts with education. People who watch these sports are typically in a similar mindset because they tend to play recreational sports as well. I think they could benefit from learning more about transgender athletes and maybe they won’t be so quick to judge others, and maybe they’ll take time to learn about things they might not have known about previously.

What are some of the significant challenges or barriers that you have faced as a transgender person?

The challenges I faced mostly surround my transition. Pre-transition, I struggled a lot to figure out who I was and where I fit in. I was in a pretty dark place, that was very difficult. I was presented with social barriers during my transition, mostly self-imposed, because I didn’t feel confident enough in myself.

Besides the self-imposed, I had trouble getting into some bars at a time when I didn’t look like my ID anymore. Some people were rude about my gender identity or didn’t respect it at all. As well, medically there were many things I needed to do that took longer than they should have, like finding the right doctor, because mine didn’t know anything about transgender people and didn’t seem willing to know, and then finding the right doctor to prescribe me hormones, followed by approvals for surgery from CAMH which was a long and slow process.

I struggled with my dysphoria so much it was a daily battle. Having a body that doesn’t match your identity and having people calling you a name and pronouns that aren’t yours are so difficult. It’s small things too that just kept coming up. I would have changed my information with my bank and I would go there and they would use the wrong name that should have been switched already, or I would learn of something else that needed to be changed.

In the athletic realm, I faced barriers because I felt like I didn’t belong. I lacked motivation. More specifically, I was forced to play in leagues with men, or if I was in a co-ed league where it was 5 men and 2 women on the field per team at a time, I had to play as a man. Having that subtle reminder wasn’t pleasant. In my life with my friends, I was treated how I should be, but to play sports, I had to basically play as someone I wasn’t.

What was your university experience like? How can post-secondary institutions empower the LGBTQ2A+ community?
My university experience was overall good. At school, I was an average student. When I decided to transition I told my professors my preferred name and pronouns and they happily obliged. I got my information changed through the school and even had the registrar sign the legal form for the government to help with my name change, so that was awesome. I met a lot of really cool people and made great friends.

I had problems more when I went out in large social settings like at the bar or a big party. When I was going through my transition it was difficult when people would misgender me, or purposely say hurtful things to me. It was almost always men at the bar that made me feel unsafe.

I think post-secondary institutions need to work on educating people, not just promoting inclusivity. I know there are many options to educate people and I know universities can’t force someone to take an educational class about sexuality and gender identity, but I maybe there are other ways to reach these people that need educating. I think to empower the LGBTQ2A+ community, post-secondary institutions can offer classes, workshops, and maybe send out emails, or have flyers and advertisements to help educate people. I know they are trying to educate people, but it’s hard to educate people who don’t want to learn.

What advice would you give to students who are on the genderqueer/diverse spectrum?

I guess the best advice I can give from my experience is to have a positive attitude and to be resilient and confident. Unfortunately, there will always be someone who’s going to try to bring you down, it happens no matter who you are, so you just need to be confident in who you are and have a positive outlook.

As well, if they are struggling, as cliche as it sounds, they need to remember that it gets better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dark it looks. Speaking from experience I never saw much of a future for myself, but I’ve come through on the other side and I’m happier than I could ever have imagined, so it can happen for others too. It’s not easy, and nothing changes overnight, but hopefully, society will learn more and become more accepting towards people on the genderqueer/diverse spectrum. Never give up.

Chris Tanouye/Canadian Women’s Hockey League

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