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Jessica Platt: Facing Obstacles On And Off The Ice

After going through transition surgery, Jessica Platt had to relearn how to play hockey. Transitioning to the women’s game was an adjustment, but eventually, Platt was drafted into the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and became the first professional hockey player to come out as a transgender woman.

Jessica Platt thought her hockey career was over after she graduated high school. Eight years later, Platt found herself back on the ice playing the sport she loved as a kid, but now she was in an entirely different body.

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Platt began hormone replacement therapy in 2012 as a 23-year-old. After graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University two years later, Platt took up a second job as a skating and hockey instructor, and it was during that time that she began to become interested in playing hockey again.

“Getting back on the ice and teaching those kids really rekindled my passion for hockey,” Platt said. “I was getting to a point in my transition where I felt like I had completed transitioning, was happy with my body, and would feel comfortable entering a locker room setting again. I was really enjoying teaching and was literally dreaming about playing hockey again” 

Before she could go back to being a blueliner, Platt had to move back home so she could recover from her surgeries, and that summer, she joined a local women’s league. It had been nearly a decade since Platt last played and the last time she laced up her skates, she was competing with a very different figure. 

“I had to learn how to run again after my surgery,” Platt said. “Your body is completely different, and you need to learn what your body can do physically and adjust to it. There was a little bit of a mental block at first, but once I got used to my new body, things began to improve day by day.”

Another important factor is that Platt was playing men’s hockey the last time she competed. Not only did she have to adjust to playing with a different physique, Platt also had to learn how to play the different style that comes with women’s hockey. 

“With men’s hockey there is hitting and body contact, but there isn’t any with women’s hockey,” Platt said. “It is a bit of a different game that I had to learn. I had to learn to play a little bit better positionally so I could take the puck off people. It is still a fairly physical game, but I had to learn a different way to go about playing.”

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It didn’t take very long for Platt to adapt and eventually, she asked the person who was running the summer league about her options for more competitive hockey. One of the options he mentioned was the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL). The league was the highest level of women’s hockey in North America for most of its existence. 

Platt decided to enter the draft and was selected 61st overall by the Toronto Furies in 2016, becoming the first transgender athlete to play in the CWHL. Platt initially did not make the team after battling a respiratory infection during training camp, but she eventually was called up for four games and played well enough to earn a full-time spot for the 2017-18 season. 

“Getting to finally play hockey again was awesome,” Platt said. “I was happy with my body and was in the best shape of my life. I couldn’t wait to see what I could do with all the training I did while getting prepared to play again. I’m glad I could be a competitive person again and had the opportunity to compete at a high level.”

It was during Platt’s first full season in the CWHL that she announced that she is transgender, doing so through an Instagram post. It was then when Platt became the first professional hockey player to come out as a transgender woman, and the second professional hockey player to come out as transgender — Harrison Browne announced that he is a transgender man while playing in the National Women’s Hockey League (now Premier Hockey Federation) in October 2016.

“When I came out while playing professionally, I had nothing but support from my coaches, teammates, and fans of the league,” Platt said. “I encountered nothing but support while I was on the ice.”

The CWHL folded after the 2018-19 season, but Platt joined the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) West of the newly formed Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) for the 2019-20 campaign. After two seasons with the club, Platt decided that it was time to hang up her skates and announced her retirement in September 2021. 

Although her playing career is over, Platt is not done working to make sports a more inclusive place. Back in 2019, Platt helped organize Team Trans, which is believed to be the first all transgender team in the United States, so they could play a scrimmage against Boston Pride Hockey. Platt intends to continue to be a presence in the transgender athlete community, taking every opportunity she can get to tell her story, and educate people on trans people and the experiences they go through in their daily lives.

“Sports have been so amazing to me,” Platt said. “Everyone deserves to have a place in sports. Nobody deserves to be discriminated against based on gender identity, sexuality, socioeconomic status, or anything of those sorts. Everyone deserves to have an opportunity to play sports. I want to do what I can to make hockey and all sports a better place for athletes than when I first started playing.”

Photo credit:Shutterstock, Lori Bolliger