Trans hockey player Danielle McClean has found a support system on the ice

Danielle McLean had one constant in her life: hockey. Now, as a transgender player in a women’s league, that’s where she’s found her community and support system.

McLean wrote of his experiences on the ice in an op-ed for CNN: “I’m a transgender player in a women’s hockey league. And that’s exactly where I belong.” In it, McLean, who is editor of the news publication Diving into smart cities, talks about the important role hockey has played in her life, from going through chemotherapy in high school to her transition from male to female. Through all of life’s hardships, McLean has always laced up her skates.

But over time, McLean felt uncomfortable playing in the “beer league” of her grown men. She didn’t know if she could physically withstand her increasingly tall opponents, or if her teammates would accept her. McLean hid his body in the locker room and life away from him.

Two years after starting hormones, she joined a women’s hockey team in the Boston area. It made all the difference.

“My teammates, with whom I shared a love of our sport, became a central part of my new social circle,” she wrote. “Most of them knew I was trans but didn’t care. They accepted me as one of them.

Throughout the play, McLean talks about attending her teammates’ weddings and baby showers, and the bond she has built with them. (She also played on Team Trans, the all-transgender hockey team that returned to the ice last year.)

With her essay, McLean attaches a human face to the fight against blanket bans on transgender women playing sports. While elite athletes like Lia Thomas and Emily Bridges are garnering international attention and attention, the vast majority of transgender women just want to play with their peers.

As McLean poignantly puts it, sports are where many find community and lasting friendships. No one should be denied the opportunity to experience these joys.

You can follow Danielle McLean on Twitter.

Catherine J. Martinez