Score another one for progress and understanding in the hockey community: as part of a settlement with a Canadian human rights group, Hockey Canada has agreed to allow transgendered minor hockey players in Ontario to choose which dressing room they use before stepping onto the ice.
The settlement ends a human rights complaint filed in August of 2013 by Oshawa, Ont., native Jesse Thompson, a 17-year-old who identifies as a male and who faced numerous obstacles in finding acceptance in the hockey world. Thompson’s mother, Alisa Thompson, told The Canadian Press her son was thrown out of dressing rooms by unenlightened coaches.
“Parents would come in and kick Jesse out of the girls’ change room because it was for girls only,” Alisa Thompson said.
However, under the details of the agreement, all players in Ontario’s development leagues will be able to use a dressing room “that corresponds with the player's self-identified gender identity”; in addition, players must be addressed by their preferred name, and Hockey Canada will provide gender identity and gender expression training to all trainers and coaches.
The verdict was a huge relief to the young man, who spoke eloquently about what it means for others struggling to be understood and welcomed in the game.
“I just hope that kids can see this and know that they don’t have to hide any more,” Thompson told The Canadian Press. “They can come out and play their sport that they love, and they don’t have to stop playing it just because of how they are or who they are.”
These are the types of decisions that can only help hockey. Inclusivity matters and the game’s gatekeepers have at times not been as progressive-minded as they could be, but, as You Can Play co-founder Patrick Burke said in a statement after the news was announced, people such as Thompson are forcing the sport to adapt to the changing attitudes of society.
“His courage will allow transgender hockey players to feel welcome and supported in their locker rooms,” Burke said. “Hockey is a game meant for everyone and we are excited for the day when all LGBT athletes feel secure in their ability to live their lives openly.”
Thanks to this verdict, that day is closer than ever.