What Gay Hockey Means to Me

Each year the Madison Gay Hockey Association invites its members to write about the role that the MGHA plays in building their identity. 2010 scholarship winner Amy Barker shares her essay.

If you would have passed me on the street approximately a year and a half ago, I would have been unrecognizable compared to today. I was a bit overweight with my head slightly lowered, avoiding eye contact and even conversation. Then something happened to me that totally changed my life.

Growing up, I always had a feeling that I wasn’t going to be typical. Coming from a pretty small town and with a narrow-minded attitude, I can still remember specific times in my life where my mind and mentality changed. When I was around seven years old, I knew my “preference.” I was honest about it, and I paid for it. I can still see in my mind as if it was yesterday when I was 13 and the phrase that was spoken to me at school. That was the exact moment when my emotional state shut down. I went through the motions of life devoid of passion and feeling. I had built a wall high around me and would not let anyone or anything in. For the next 15 years, I walked alone through life as much as possible.

I then found the Madison Gay Hockey Association. Having an appreciation for sports, I was interested. Upon reading more and more on the MGHA website, I decided to sign up. If nothing else, I’d be learning another sport. As I took my quiet self to one of the first open skates, I had no idea what to expect. Upon introducing myself I was prepared for the usual reaction, but to my surprise, I was met with openness and kindness. Throughout the summer, I attended more and more open skates, quickly meeting the founder and most of the board members. I was unsure whether to be scared or intrigued.

By the time the first skills clinic came around, I remember finishing up and sitting in the stands and watching the others. I was approached by a few people that I hadn’t yet met, but they seemed to know my name. They sat next to me and started up a conversation. This happened more frequently as the season started to get underway. I was totally in awe of the community that existed and the idea that I could possibly have a place here and be accepted. I could feel a part of myself come alive; the wall that I had built was quickly crumbling away.

It didn’t matter that I had never been on a pair of skates before or that my hockey knowledge was limited. It didn’t matter that I knew no one in the league before I signed up, nor who I was as a person. Through constant support, encouragement, and positive reinforcement (on and off the ice), I have made such amazing friendships and discovered so much about myself that I never knew existed.

Everything has been going in a positive direction which, honestly, I am not used to. I remember being at an open skate by myself. I was working on trying to stop and the one thing that I distinctly remember someone saying was, “You’ll be fine. Just keep at it. Remember, you get out what you put into it.” At that time, I thought the statement only applied to hockey. Little did I know it would apply to so many other aspects of my life.

The one thing that I’ve learned this season is that life doesn’t happen to you, you have to participate in life for anything to happen. I may have been brought into this world in the 1980s, but the summer of 2009 is when I truly was born and brought into the light of life.