Dee McWatters says that her hockey team was more concerned about her ability to stop pucks than her gender.
McWatters is a mother, hockey player, referee, wine aficionado and operations manager, and 2SLGBTQIA+ advocate, who happens to be transgender.
McWatters, director of transgender community involvement with the Kelowna Pride Society, spoke at the trans march and social on June 9 at the Kelowna Art Gallery as part of Pride Week. During her speech she discussed the importance of sport, authenticity and inclusion in the trans community.
“It’s a real shame that we’re losing people in sport because they may not feel comfortable in the particular genderized [sic] sport that they’re in,” said McWatters in an interview after the event.
She explained that she left competitive hockey in her late teens, after playing since the age of eight, because she didn’t feel comfortable going through men’s hockey.
“Inside, I wasn’t a man.”
She said that she wants to prevent other trans youth from leaving the sport that they love because of feelings that they don’t belong.
She sadded that it is important for both physical and mental health to be active and involved in the community, in whatever way feels most authentic.
The centre for suicide prevention states that up to 43 per cent of transgender people have attempted suicide, with youth being particularly at risk.
The centre credits dysphoria and a lack of ‘belonging’ to the high rates of suicide among trans youth.
The concept of trans people in sport can be divisive, explained McWatter. She said that people fear a discrepancy in physical development, attributed to testosterone during puberty.
“I can tell you that there is nobody that goes through transition just to they can win a race.”
McWatters maintains that everyone deserves to participate in sport for their mental and physical health.
Despite experiencing gender dysphoria, McWatters remained involved in hockey as a referee, since the age of 12. She later 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 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 about having her on the roster.
Once back on the ice, everything felt right, said McWatters.
“It felt amazing to be back playing the sport that I once loved.”
Since then, she has joined a transgender hockey team and has become a leader in the trans community with the Pride Society, B.C. hockey and hopes to work with hockey Canada in the future.
She said that sport is making steps towards inclusivity, explaining that in B.C., men’s hockey is now officially termed co-ed hockey.
She encourages people interested in learning more about inclusion in sport to visit viasport.ca for guidelines and policies making sport a safe space for LGBTQIA+ athletes.