A hockey team made up entirely of trans and nonbinary athletes is celebrating gender diversity and queer visibility one game at a time.
Team Trans is an international collective of hundreds of members and is a "vital" safe space for hockey players who identify as transgender. The team travels across North America to play in LGBTQ hockey tournaments.
"We are showing our community that they can come out and play sports too. That they don't have to be sidelined. They don't have to be afraid of going into the locker room. They don't have to be afraid of getting hazed," said Andrea Sand, a Team Trans athlete. "They show up and have fun. Team Trans is vital."
Keira Wiele, another Team Trans athlete, said the team gave her back her love of hockey. "There is a moment of hesitation that every trans person has experienced before they push open a locker room door or a bathroom door -- even if they've done it a million times in that building, in that facility, with that team," she said, adding that she now has teammates who are nonbinary, who are trans men, and other trans female teammates.
"I actually stopped playing hockey when I began my transition," she continued. "The first time I stepped back on the ice was in Las Vegas with Team Trans, and it reignited my love of the sport. It was a life-changing experience for me and continues to be a life-changing experience for me."
Fellow Team Trans athlete Ash Freeman said she experienced a similar feeling.
"I grew up playing hockey and then I gave it up because I was uncomfortable changing in front of all the boys in my locker room because I realized I wasn't the person I was, but I didn't actually come out until way later in life," said Freeman.
Freeman said that Team Trans is "all of us coming together, loving each other, playing the sport we love, and that's all that matters at the end of the day, win or lose."
Team Trans athlete Sarah Antaya said the purpose of the team is to just "exist."
"We're doing this for joy. We're doing this to have fun. That's it. That's all it is," said Antaya. "We just want to exist and we want to do all of these fun things in our amazing world that all of us want to do."
Antaya said it's about the hope of making someone feel less alone.
"Team Trans is family," she added.
While some use Team Trans to connect with others, some of the athletes use hockey to reconnect with themselves.
Team Trans athlete Tab Felter said they have felt the most comfortable with their body when they've had physical hobbies.
"I think it was a week ago today I finally called my mom. I was like, 'Hey, so yeah, there's this hockey tournament, and I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I'm nonbinary so I'm going to be playing on Team Trans," said Felter. "It just felt great to have it over with."
Sand said the teammates come from all "different walks of life," but together they share a safe space and a common goal: to play on.
"We come from everywhere," said Sand. "And the one thing that brings us all together is how safe our team is. We just want to be ourselves. We just want to be able to exist and play hockey and live."