Transgender hockey player wants Ontario inclusivity policies to spread across Canada

Jesse Thompson wanted transgender inclusive policies for hockey dressing rooms to be implemented sooner and for them to be Canada-wide, but says an important first step is happening in Ontario.

Ontario minor hockey leagues hoping to change locker room culture

Jesse Thompson, a19-year-old from Oshawa, Ont., got the ball rolling on transgender inclusion in 2013 when he filed a human rights complaint in Ontario against Hockey Canada. (Lorenda Reddekopp/Twitter)

Jesse Thompson wants transgender inclusive policies for hockey dressing rooms to be implemented sooner and for them to be Canada-wide, but says an important first step is happening in Ontario.

The 19-year-old from Oshawa, Ont., got the ball rolling on transgender inclusion in 2013 when he filed a human rights complaint in Ontario against Hockey Canada.

Ontario's minor hockey branches agreed in 2014 to change dressing room policies and to educate personnel on transgender inclusion. 

The new policy states that "players who identify as trans can use the dressing room corresponding to their gender identity, be addressed by their preferred name and pronoun, and have the privacy and confidentiality of their transgender status respected."

Full implementation is going to effect this 2016-17 season.

Teen would have quit if atmosphere didn't change

"I'm very happy about it," Thompson told The Canadian Press on Thursday. "It took a long time."

Thompson felt being forced by a minor hockey league official to change in a separate dressing room during the 2012-13 season "outed" him and exposed him to harassment and bullying.

"Sometimes I would get really bad anxiety before hockey because I didn't know what the convener was going to do or if someone was going to say something," he said.

If the atmosphere didn't change, Thompson said he would have quit hockey.

He shared a dressing room with his teammates in his final season of minor hockey in 2013-14 and said his gender was a non-issue. 

'Hockey started becoming more fun'

"I think the biggest problem was going to be the parents, not so much the kids," he said. "Hockey started becoming more fun for me again."

Minor hockey branches outside of Ontario have yet to adopt transgender policies. The issue hasn't been tabled for discussion yet at Hockey Canada's annual general meetings, according to a spokeswoman.

Thompson hopes minor hockey associations across Canada will take on transgender inclusivity before it goes to human rights tribunals or the courts.

"Sports are what kids use to get away from things when they're stressed out," he explained. "Hockey is sometimes the only place you can escape your school, your parents, stuff like that.

"I feel like adults are always saying kids need to have hobbies so we don't get into trouble, but then they're kind of taking it away from us because of how we are."