You Can Play

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Both of my kids play a lot of ice hockey.   If any of you reading this have kids who play hockey, you will know what that means. From the end of August until the beginning of March, we cannot make a reasonable plan to do anything else. And even after that, it’s sketchy. It’s a long, demanding schedule and it’s taken on for a reason. Most kids I know who play hockey are full-blown in love with it. It’s a disease, a religion.

E is an ice hockey goalie. This is an added dimension of crazy to an already insane situation. From the equipment to the trainings to the pressure, it takes a unique character to stand there and have hard rubber pucks come flying at your head. E is brave on many levels.

We make an effort to tone it down over the summer. It never actually ends, but we make sure that hockey does not dominate the kids’ break. E continues to train once per week. And then, he does one week of hockey camp.

When deciding on which week to attend, I consulted E’s goalie coach. E had a conflict during the second week of camp, the one that he usually does. So I was surprised when his coach suggested the third week. That is the week that the older, highly skilled goalies attend. E was proud. It was a real sign of confidence in him that he could handle it.

I dropped him off at 8 am on the first day. The room was filled with massive kids, with just a couple of smaller ones and none as small as E. The coach approached us and asked which locker room E wanted to use. “The boys locker room.” E said clearly. And off he went.

I remembered dropping E off last year and it was an absolute disaster. It was prior to E’s social transition, so he was still using “she” and “her.”   The coach insisted E use the girl’s locker room. When I couldn’t get anywhere with the coach, I offered E an out, but he wouldn’t leave. I left E there, with his trembling lip and determined squared off shoulders. I remember getting halfway home, pulling into the Lowe’s parking lot, and sobbing for a good 5 minutes.

This year was so much better and I drove by that same Lowe’s feeling so happy about the progress we had made.  When I picked him up after a very long and intense day, he looked troubled. I attributed it to exhaustion. But when we reached the car the tears began.

“I don’t want to go back tomorrow. I’m not going back. There were a few kids in the locker room, big kids, talking about Caitlyn Jenner. They were calling trans people ‘it’ and using the word ‘tranny’ and laughing. I just kept on looking down at my skates, I didn’t even want to look at them.”

I had a flashback to last summer. E told me he got through being in the girl’s locker room then by putting his head down, moving as quickly as possible.

Here we were again, getting through a locker room situation with head down. Even though the kids didn’t know E is trans, he felt unsafe and rattled.

This was E’s first brush with negativity and it sucked. What really sucked was knowing that this was only the beginning. That surely it would happen again. And next time it might be directed at him.

He asked if we could stop at one of his favorite restaurants on the way home. We called my husband and he met us there. We surrounded ourselves with chips and salsa, margaritas and virgin pina coladas. The pressure lifted and E relaxed. By the next morning he was fortified and ready to return to, thankfully, an uneventful rest of the week.

In our world, we often say “Acceptance Is Protection” and I think we lived it this week. E was able to gather his strength from the safe place of home and a family that loves and supports him so that he could face that locker room again the next day. This time with his head up.

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