Okanagan hockey player speaks out for trans sport – Vernon Morning Star
Dee McWatters says her hockey team was more concerned with her ability to stop pucks than her gender.
McWatters is a mother, hockey player, referee, wine enthusiast and operations manager, and 2SLGBTQIA+ advocate, who happens to be transgender.
McWatters, director of transgender community engagement with the Kelowna Pride Society, spoke at the Trans and Social March June 9 at the Kelowna Art Gallery as part of Pride Week. During her speech, she discussed the importance of sports, authenticity and inclusion in the trans community.
“It’s really a shame that we lose people in sport because maybe they don’t feel comfortable in the particular gender context. [sic] sport they play,” McWatters said in an interview after the event.
She explained that she quit competitive hockey in her late teens, having played since she was eight, because she didn’t feel comfortable transitioning into men’s hockey.
“Inside, I was not a man.”
She said she wanted to stop other young trans people from leaving the sport they love because of feelings they don’t belong.
She added that it is important for physical and mental health to be active and involved in the community, in the most authentic way.
The suicide prevention center states that up to 43 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide, with young people particularly at risk.
The center attributes dysphoria and lack of “belonging” to high suicide rates among trans youth.
The concept of trans people in sports can be divisive, McWatter explained. She said people fear a discrepancy in physical development attributed to testosterone during puberty.
“I can tell you that there is no one who goes through transition just to win a race.”
McWatters argues that everyone deserves to play sports for their mental and physical health.
Despite gender dysphoria, McWatters has remained involved in hockey as a referee since she was 12 years old. Later, she coached and taught her own children the sport she loves so much.
After coming out as transgender in 2018, McWatters continued to officiate. After a game, she was approached by a local women’s hockey team, who asked her if she was willing to play for them.
McWatters used to play goalie and she jokes that having a full-time goalie is really what made her new team the most excited to have him on. the list.
Once back on the ice, everything was fine, McWatters said.
“It was amazing to get back to the sport that I once loved.”
She has since joined a transgender hockey team and has become a leader in the trans community with the Pride Society, BC Hockey and hopes to work with Hockey Canada in the future.
She said the sport is moving towards inclusiveness, explaining that in British Columbia men’s hockey is now officially called co-ed hockey.
She encourages those interested in learning more about inclusion in sport to visit viasport.ca for guidelines and policies that make sport a safe space for LGBTQIA+ athletes.
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