Here is a great story about a high school girls’ ice hockey team in New Brunswick, Canada. Two members of the team came out as lesbians to the rest of the team. The team supported them. However, as word spread around the league, the team received taunts on Facebook and harassment in the rink. One team taunted them and refused to shake hands at the end of the game.
Now, this is the place where things can start to go wrong in so many cases. Sometimes the non-lesbian members of a team get defensive and uncomfortable. They start to resent their gay teammates for “causing the problem” and attracting negative attention to the team. They don’t want anyone to think they are gay by association. They get caught up worrying about stereotypes of women athletes. They might make a point of talking about boyfriends or change their appearance to accentuate their feminine appearance off the ice. They might even start hurling anti-gay insults back at their opponents during matches.
The New Brunswick team, however, took a different tack. They did not respond to the taunting with insults of their own. They went to their school GSA and asked for support. The GSA came to matches and supported their team, gay and straight. The whole team began wearing rainbow patches on their uniforms with “No Homophobia” printed on them as a show of solidarity and support. As a result of their actions, new conversations about homophobia in the league opened up. Another team asked for some rainbow patches to wear also. As people began hearing about the New Brunswick team and their actions, the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission decided to present them with a Human Rights Award. Now doesn’t this make you feel good?
This is such a powerful story of a group of high school young women who said no to homophobia and yes to inclusion and respect. I am honored to add my thanks and congratulations to the New Brunswick girls’ ice hockey team. They are great role models for other teams who have experienced similar anti-gay taunting and harassment for how to respond with an impressive show of solidarity, commitment and refusal to be intimidated by hate, prejudice and fear.