For over 25 years the Women’s Hockey Club of Toronto (WHCT) has created a safe space for queer and queer-positive people in the city.
Since 1991, WHCT, one of the first and largest queer-inclusive and women-centric hockey leagues in the country, has made it their priority to create a much needed inclusive and affordable place to play the sport.
Regardless of skill level, age or sexuality, WHCT has always welcomed fair-minded players.
Carole Atkins, a retired teacher, has been playing with the league since the very beginning and now at 71 years old she says that WHCT accepted her despite her lack of experience.
Atkins says she had never played hockey, but that didn’t discourage her from grabbing a pair of skates and hitting the ice.
“I went to some training courses and discovered how much more fun it was to play than anything else,” says Atkins.
As a cis-gender hetero woman, Atkins recalls being asked if she was queer-positive, to which she replied “I’m perfectly fine with whatever the league is. I just want to play hockey.”
But Atkins says she quickly learned that for many of the players, the league was more than just a fun way to get to play the sport.
“It really was an eye-opener to me, to see that a lot of people weren’t out in their workplaces and that Saturday night hockey was a safe place for everybody to be comfortable.”
Brenda Murphy is just one of the many players that says that WHCT is a safe space for them.
“This was definitely the first league where I was like ‘wow, everyone can be whoever they are and be accepted no matter what,” says the Toronto-based teacher.
Murphy came out while she was in university and says that a different hockey league she was playing with wasn’t entirely understanding or accepting of her, but she quickly felt at home with the WHCT.
“I always felt like it’s an extended family,” says Murphy. And it literally is an extended family, since Brenda’s mom Jane has played in the League for many years and is also a long-time organizer. Mother and daughter now play on a team together.
Not only has WHCT created a space for queer women for over two decades, but they have also welcomed LGBTQ2 individuals with different gender identities to ensure that everyone has access to the sport.
“The league in the last few years has been really accepting of the trans community, making sure that pronouns are accurate and used properly,” adds Murphy.
Tyler* is a self-declared “newbie” to the world of hockey, but he says he’s always been the sporty type and was interested in trying it out.
Tyler says that WHCT was an affordable and inclusive introduction to the exciting sport. He recently transitioned and he says that he was nervous to come out to his team as a transgender man.
“It’s difficult for women in sports to play and feel like they belong in that space without needing to fight [for it], so [as a trans man] I didn’t want to tread on that,” says Tyler.
Despite his concerns, Tyler says that his team and the league continued to welcome him.
“It really is a group of people who just want to make it an equal place for fair play and they’ve been very open and accepting of who I am,” he adds.
“They gave me a chance and a safe space to [play].”
To learn how you can join the WHCT, check out their website.
*Name has been changed.