Recently, I had the pleasure to interview Willie O’Ree, the first black player to play in the NHL. It was great to get an appraisal of what breaking the colour barrier was like, but looking at his life through my own modern-day lense, it’s still tough to approximate what he went through.
Similarly, I can only imagine what it’s like to be a transgender athlete today.
Which is why it was illuminating to talk to two current day trailblazers and members of the hockey community, Harrison Browne and Jessica Platt, about their present day experiences.
Browne is the first publicly out transgender athlete in North American professional team sports. Playing in the NWHL, the two-time league champion is a transgender man and was one of the National Women’s Hockey League’s best forwards. After delaying the decision for a season, Browne retired in April so he is able to transition.
Platt is the second publicly out transgender player in professional hockey and the first on Canada’s CWHL circuit. Platt has already transitioned and just finished her second season with the Toronto Furies.
They’ve never spoken to the media on camera together about their experiences, until now.
I was curious to hear in their words what their reality is like, the negative and the positive.
And where better to have the conversation then at the headquarters of Twitter Canada, the social media platform where both athletes not only made their announcements public, but have to continued to interact with followers to educate?
Here is our conversation:
A quote from each athlete that didn’t make the final edit of the video, has stuck with me.
Platt on the gender pronoun discussion: “I know when I was transitioning, I would have people misgender me and it hurt every single time. I don’t think there was one time where it was easy, but when people use the proper pronouns, I just felt validated. It felt like they were treating me as a person and it was incredible.”
Browne’s comments about the differences in his experiences in the United States relative to those in Canada were revealing.
“I think that the President of the United States didn’t wish anybody happy Pride month. And that’s the second year that has happened and I think living in the States for the past seven years has given me a good vantage point for that.”
Browne went on to add: “I stand as a proud Canadian. Obviously Canada isn’t perfect. Canada still has some room for improvement. But I think that the steps that we’ve taken and the state that we’re in right now just shows how progressive Canada is. I can’t say enough about how much it means to have our Prime Minister walking in a Pride parade. He was walking in the Pride parade that I was walking in last year too. So it just means a lot to show quality to show that your leader and Canada’s leader cares about people, cares about diversity, cares about equality.
“It just really does highlight the stuff that’s going wrong in America right now, but I think it’s also opened up American eyes to what can be and to what a true leader does.”