With Pride Month coming to an end, we continue to look at the inclusivity of our sport. Yesterday we published an insightful article written by England and Great Britain hockey goalkeeper Amy Tennant and today we share the stories and experiences of LGBTQ+ players from across England.
In all the testimonials there is a theme of acceptance and no judgement from clubs across the country. One player, from The London Royals Hockey Club, Casey Bennet, came out as non-binary (Non-binary gender identity is a term used to describe individuals who may experience a gender identity that is neither exclusively male or female or is in between or beyond both genders) and shared their experience “They (the club) were so supportive and instantly started using my new name and pronouns. The club is a safe space to be yourself.” said Casey.
Two other members from The London Royals, Marie La Boissiere, who came across the club at Black Pride, and Helen Oakleigh spoke about the openness and inclusivity of the club and the sport. Both players love the friendliness and are looking forward to playing again, especially at the annual Pride Cup tournament that was shortlisted for the England Hockey Innovation Award. “The comradeship is great. The best thing is going on tour where you can play hockey and meet people from the rest of Europe and further afield. I’m really looking forward to starting the new season.” Marie stated.
Alice Joan Tilley from Mossley Hill Hockey Club truly felt the love of the hockey family when her wife Catherine, also an avid player at the club, passed away. The club reached out to encourage her and her daughter Martha to come back and play hockey. “The club is a place where teenagers and people in their 20s through to 60s choose to spend time together safely and freely whoever they love.” Said Alice. The club now has an award named after Catherine and gets awarded at the End of Season Dinner every year. “We always felt safe to be our best selves at MHHC and now that Catherine is no longer with us, we know that there are always folk there, of all ages, from the men’s teams as well as the women’s teams who will talk with us and indulge us in celebrating Catherine.”
For some, hockey is a safe place. It is a place where you can be yourself and not be judged for your gender or sexuality. Laura Kennedy, from South Berkshire Hockey Club, and Marianna Alexandrou, from Brentwood Hockey Club, both had family members react negatively to them coming out and found that hockey was their safe place. “During the first few months, I found myself then beginning to struggle to cope with how my parents reacted. I felt low, isolated and began feeling depressed, but this is where I found acceptance within my hockey club.
“The club gave me an escape and distraction from home life by giving me more responsibility within the club; my team nominated me to be Vice-Captain for the Ladies 2’s; many members helped and supported me during dark times by simply listening and giving me advice, but most importantly, the club accepted me, just for being me.” expressed Marianna.
Laura’s experience started at the age of 25 when she fell deeply in love with a girl, she opened up to her family and began to feel lost. “Whilst falling in love for the first time was the most amazing feeling, coming out, particularly a little later in life at the age of 25, felt confusing and terrifying. I struggled with my identity, I was fearful of people’s response and I suffered with some negative reactions from certain family members. I very much remained in the closet at work, and the only place I felt safe to be out was amongst my teammates and my hockey family. Being gay wasn’t an issue at hockey, I felt like I could be myself with no judgement. I was accepted for me, and it was the only place I felt truly comfortable and able to be my authentic self.
“As time has passed, I have accepted my sexuality, I have come out at work, and I am proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. But I honestly do not think I would feel as comfortable as I do now, without the love and support shown to me from my hockey family.”
The word “family” is used a lot by people within the hockey community, and for one lady, the announcement of the extension of her family, both at home and her club, was nothing less than exciting. Sarah Trinder, from Cheam Hockey Club, went from side-line supporter to Members Secretary when her partner finally persuaded her to play. When the pair revealed they were going to adopt a child, the club were ecstatic. “There was nothing but support and real jubilation. Our son joined us at 3-years-old and he became accustomed to watching us play, either being looked after by one of the junior’s mum’s or playing with the kids of other players on the side-line.” explains Sarah. Now, the big happy family enjoy playing hockey together.
For so many hockey is a hobby, a place to meet up with friends and have fun. Danielle Du Toit, from Newbury and Thatcham Hockey Club, joined three seasons ago at a Back To Hockey session with her girlfriend at the time, and revealed: “I have never felt as though I have had to hide who I am, and I have always found people at the club to be positive, supportive, and inclusive. NTHC is a family made up of people from all walks of life; and me and my rainbow heart couldn’t be happier or prouder to be part of it!”.
Michelle Yam had to choose between two clubs, eventually deciding to join a small club in Milton Keynes called Enigma Ladies Hockey Club, “I called the captain of Enigma Ladies Hockey Club to discuss joining and was instantly excited to meet the team. It was a bit daunting, but the team made me feel really welcome. After my first session, my mind was made up. Enigma are a small local team, which welcomes all ages and skills, which is another reason why I love my team. They have allowed me to really learn from other players, either by being on the pitch or watching on the side-lines. I can 100% say that I’ve never felt my sexuality was in anyway an issue. They welcomed me as a teammate and hockey player before anything else!” recalls Michelle.
For Steph Welsh, it was a bit different, she has been openly gay for a while and no longer hides her sexuality. She joined Bicester Hockey Club after attending a rush hockey session to get back into the sport having not played for years, saying “I’ve never had any negativity from anyone, and on reflection there has been nothing but support.”. For her, the surprise came from the younger players, as she explains: “What has surprised me with being at the club is that there have been a few younger players who are still at school and are open about their sexuality. This would never have been an option when I was at school and it’s great to see that things have moved on and that the younger generation feel able to be who they are, meaning that they can concentrate their efforts on the pitch.”.
Across England there are thousands of hockey clubs filled with amazing people. This is just a small snippet celebrating Pride Month.
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