Clearing the Air, and Lifting a Weight from My Shoulders

I know I’ve hinted at it and posted some things that would lead you to believe that I am transgendered. Well, here I am, coming out officially as a trans girl. This is something I struggled with for the better part of a decade and I am finally confident enough with myself to say it. Hi, my name is Alyssa.

I know there is probably a lot of confusion. Why did you consider yourself gay for so long? Why not just come out as trans at first? Well, for the longest time I sincerely did believe that I was a gay man. I was woefully unaware of the true spectrum of human sexuality and gender identity. I had no idea until I was in college that the feelings I always had were not exclusive to me. I didn’t know that being transgender was even possible. So I lived my life as if I were gay, because it was the closest I thought I could ever get to expressing the true me. I knew I was attracted to men, I knew that my true self was extremely feminine, and I knew that some gay men wear women’s clothes, and have feminine tendencies. I didn’t know that being a female trapped in a man’s body was a real thing. I was very naive.

In college I met a transgendered girl at a bar and we had a very in-depth conversation about it. I learned so much from her. It was that conversation that opened my eyes to who I truly am. The next day I made an appointment with the counseling center at my college to talk about it. Over the next four years I went to two counseling sessions a week, and saw the school psychologist. They helped me get to the deepest parts of me, the parts I repressed because I thought I was wrong. Now I embrace everything I repressed. Not in front of my coworkers, friends, and family, but anonymously on the internet, and with people I have met through Twitter. It’s a step in the right direction, and once I can escape the homophobic and transphobic biological family of which I am a part, my true self will be the only thing people see. I will throw out the character I had to develop to hide myself from the world.

I know it sounds pathetic, but I honestly did meet so many great people on Twitter who I honestly do consider my best friends, my family. I wasn’t born into a tolerant or accepting family, and I don’t have a safe and welcoming environment to escape to other than the internet. At least not anymore. In college, and when I lived out-of-state, I lived my life the way I felt was right. I let my true self shine, and I was met with some hostility, but tons of love and acceptance.

Now that my financial troubles have led me back to my parents’ house, I have to hide again. I planned on starting hormones this year, but I can’t. Not only because I cannot afford them, but because I would be homeless even if I could. I don’t want this to be a pity post, because I know that my troubles are nothing compared to other people’s around the world. I am thankful I have roof over my head, health, and food to eat every night. The challenges I face now will only make me a stronger woman.

Being trans, but not yet on hormones comes with it’s own set of problems, though. Some trans girls say I can’t be trans until I start hormones. Others say that going out dressed in men’s clothes means I can’t be trans. But in my heart I know that I am a woman. Sometimes I feel like other trans girls forget what it was like to play that waiting game. To see day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year pass without starting hormones, without dressing, without being the girl they know they are.

I’m here to let you all know that despite my physical appearance, despite my public wardrobe, I am a woman. Eventually my physical body will reflect who I am inside. Until then, I will work hard to get where I need to be, overcome any obstacle that comes my way, and dream of the day when I will be Alyssa for the rest of my life.

Now, being a trans girl and deeply involved in hockey means I face yet another set of challenges. I’m not talking about being labeled a “puck bunny” or anything, because frankly, I don’t care if you call me that or not. I don’t find it offensive. But because the trans community is often forgotten, I feel, when it comes to sports advocacy. There are few female-to-male (ftm) athletes fighting for acceptance and tolerance in sports, and even fewer (if any at all), male-to-female (mtf) advocates. However, Patrick Burke from You Can Play has reached out to me to offer his support and encouragement. It means the world to me that he would do this for me and other trans girls who are involved in sports.

I know that being a trans girl in hockey will mean I will probably have few options when it comes to playing. The dressing room issue seems to divide a lot of people, and few rinks can accommodate a third room if the women have an issue with me in their dressing room. I’ve made my peace with that, and I’m ready to give up playing and coaching when the time comes. I will miss it dearly, as it helped develop the never-ending love I have for the game. Whether I have to quit because of the expense, the pain from transitioning, or because of my limited options, I know that I will always have hockey in my life. My love for the game will not fade away simply because I won’t play anymore; it will just be re-focused into my love and support for my favorite teams and players.

But more often than not, I feel myself getting pushed further and further from officially starting my transition while staying a part of the hockey fan community. The homophobic and transphobic comments made by socially sheltered or ignorant fans have desensitized many in the hockey community to the offensive, hateful rhetoric. The phrase “it’s just a joke” is said far too often to justify a gay comment; the “soccer is gay” line is more than overused; calling other athletes “fags” is commonplace. This all needs to stop. Everyone needs to step up and educate themselves on how hurtful comments and jokes like these are to the LGBT community in sports, and elsewhere. Though I identify as a heterosexual female, the gay jokes and casual use of the word “fag” really do hurt. I faced that kind of discrimination daily from every other aspect of life, and I will continue to experience in the future. It’s just not right.

At least at the present time, I don’t think the hockey community is ready to accept a trans girl as a player. As a fan of hockey, I am welcomed with open arms. But the locker room and the ice is a much different experience. I will most likely have to give up coaching as well. I understand the apprehension parents would have if a transgendered woman were coaching their children. It’s part of my struggle to be accepted. A part that will take years, if not decades, to phase out. I’ve made my peace with giving up coaching when the time comes. I love it, but not enough to continue to live a lie.

Because I am frequently asked why I chose the name Alyssa, I guess I should explain it now. Growing up the regular babysitter my parents hired was named Alyssa. She was the most feminine, beautiful girl I had ever seen. I idolized her. She was tall, healthy, funny, and she always had a Cosmo or a Vogue with her. When I was finally old enough for my parents to stop hiring her, my heart broke. I couldn’t see my idol on a regular basis anymore. I all but forgot about her over the years, but something always kept her in my mind. For the longest time, she was exactly who I wanted to be like. Fast forward to 2011, when I finally came to terms with who I am inside.

As a die-hard Canucks fan, I learned that the girl who I pulled for in the Miss USA pageant, Alyssa Campanella, shared a love for my favorite team ever. She reminded me of my former babysitter. Tall, healthy, feminine, funny, everything I idolized. I instantly knew right then and there that I had to not only chose a name that I felt fit my personality and vision for myself, but also paid tribute to the women who helped shape the girl I am becoming. Picking the name Alyssa was a no-brainer. I feel confident with the name Alyssa. I feel like it fits me better than any other name could. I feel lucky that the name that gives me confidence and self-esteem is also that of my idols. Rarely, I hear, does that happen. I hope to find my former babysitter one day and thank her for everything she’s done for me. I also want to meet Alyssa Campanella and let her know how much she inspired me, and how much she means to me.

When the day comes that I can finally afford to start my transition, I want to be an advocate for transgendered people in sports. I want to help inspire anyone and everyone to follow their dreams no matter what. Honestly, if I can do it, anyone can.

Signing off for the first time,  Alyssa <3

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11 Responses to Clearing the Air, and Lifting a Weight from My Shoulders

  1. metricjulie says:

    “But in my heart I know that I am a woman.”

    That is so wonderful to hear. The thing is, YOU define labels; labels don’t define you. You are a woman because you identify as one, whether you choose to do masculinity or femininity.

    It takes a lot of courage to openly be who you truly are when who you are is misunderstood, so I want to offer you a hug (if hugs are okay) and thank you for sharing this tremendously personal piece of information with us. I know you are well surrounded with the PuckBuddys and the people at YCP.

    Plus, anyone who digs Carey Price (“Apparently these women don’t appreciate a new twist on cowboy-chic, or a handsome man in a fine tailored suit”) is fine by me. :)

    xoxoxo
    Julie

  2. Eklund says:

    I very fully admire your courage Alyssa. You are who you are you have every right to be a woman. A proud woman.

    Most people, regardless of sex and orientation battle with who they are than any other question. I have known plenty of perfectly straight people who have no idea who the hell they are and they are tortured by it. If there is any solace in your battle take solace in your understanding of yourself. You can’t make another living thing happy until you are happy with you.

    My hope is through your courage and the courage the Burke’s (and YCP) have put forth that eventually some NHLers past and present come out so that at the least some barriers are smashed. There are some great NHLers on that list. Some very respected. A few are downright legends. There are even coaches and scouts.

    But none have been willing to show your courage.

    I know your battle stretches way beyond “coming out” and I so admire how understanding you are in your post towards the awkwardness of society. I really believe the fact you have the strength to hold such an higher level of understanding speaks greatly to your character.

    As for the hockey world…you are always welcomed into the hockey world. I can honestly say that for every idiot there are ten great people in hockey. There really are. …(and I should know a bit about idiots!)

    best,

    Ek

  3. Anon says:

    Please don’t give up on the idea of finding a place to continue playing! I actually have played with/against a trans woman before, and she is one of my favorite people in my local hockey community. Not everyone on the ice knows that she wasn’t born into a female body (which is why I’m posting this anonymously – it’s not my story to tell), but those of us who do know don’t care. If you’ve mostly been involved with men’s hockey in the past, you may be pleasantly surprised by how accepting women’s teams can be, at least at a recreational level. Most groups I’ve played with have embraced a wide variety of ages, sexual orientations, and experience levels – we’re all just happy to support the growth of women’s hockey. Most of us have had the experience of being made to feel like an outsider because of our gender in a heavily male-dominated sport, which I think primes us for embracing ‘difference’ in all its forms. We’re all just there to play the sport we love.

    It may not be easy to find a place to play, but with the strength you’ve already had to develop, I can’t imagine that you won’t eventually succeed. You may have to make concessions of your own in the process (the woman I know is extremely conscientious about playing to the level of the others on the ice and not using her slapshot in a game with less experienced players), but I’m confident that you’ll find some way to continue playing and coaching. On the topic of coaching, it may be different in Vancouver (if that’s your city, not just your team), but many adult recreational and college club women’s teams in the US lack proper coaches. If it’s something that you’re passionate enough about to volunteer your time (or make very little money), I’m sure there are plenty of teams that would love to have you.

    Congratulations on taking this step towards embracing who you truly are. I hope that you’re soon able to live the life that you’re striving towards, and that you’ll continue playing and coaching the sport you love.

  4. Thank you everyone for your support and acceptance! It really means the world to me that there are so many people out there who accept me for me.

    Julie, thank you so much for your support! Thank you for seeing me as the woman I am, not the man I look like (even though I’ve never posted a pic of me…lol).

    Eklund, I’m nothing special. I’m just a girl with a dream. If that makes me courageous, then I guess you can call me courageous. I don’t see it that way, though. I just see me trying to be me, and letting the rest of the world handle that fact in their own way. I thank you for your kind words and show of support. It really means a lot to me.

    Anon, thank you so much for sharing your friend’s story with me. It gives me hope for the future of my playing career. I only play recreationally, so I’m not looking for too much competition. As for coaching, I live in the midwest of the United States. Coaching a women’s college club team would be great, but most of the positions I have seen require more playing experience than I have. Either way, I will continue to apply for those jobs and hopefully land one. My other true passion is fashion design. I intent to pursue a career in fashion, specifically tailored for female hockey fans. :)

  5. Jess says:

    It’s always wonderful to hear a story about someone finding peace with themselves. Thank you for sharing your story, Alyssa! I’m quite sure that there is a woman who will read this story and feel the same way you did when you spoke to the trans woman you met at a bar. The truth has a wonderful power that way.

    I wouldn’t give up on your playing career just yet. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but the hockey girls I’ve had the good fortune to know have been some of the loveliest, most open minded people I know. It may take a few tries to find the right team, but I know there is a team out there for you.

    Keep fighting the good fight!
    <3 Jess

  6. Nat says:

    Fantastic post Alyssa. My brother is gay but in the closet, so I can appreciate the struggle of trying to figure out your identity and having to keep a part of you secret. I look forward to the day when we as a society have advanced to the point where sexual/gender identity doesn’t have to be a secret and is simply accepted.

    Best of luck to you. Hopefully your finances will improve so that you can make the transition you’ve been waiting for.

    Oh, and one more thing: Go Canucks Go! : )

    -female Nucks fan from Vancouver

  7. Renee says:

    My hope and prayer for you and all who must hide who they truly are, is that you will find the kind of love and acceptance in your life that will allow you to be who you were meant to be. I hope your heart will sing!!!

  8. JC says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Alyssa. These kinds of revelations help some of us to reconsider what it means to be honest with ourselves and the world. Best of luck to you.

  9. Thank you for sharing this — it must have taken a lot of courage, and I for one absolutely appreciate it. Best of luck in being able to continue to transition (I hope it’s far sooner rather than later that you’re in a position to safely move on!), and in being able to continue to stay involved with hockey as much as possible.

  10. Bette says:

    This is so lovely to read. It must be quite a journey going from a gay man to a straight woman – of course, you were always female, I mean in the eyes of friends and family and the wider world. One of my best friends/lovers is a trans lady and she has found a great community where we live. I hope you are doing great Alyssa!

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