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Breaking down barriers: Jessica Platt makes history

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Troy Shantz

On December 9, 2017, Bright’s Grove native Jessica Platt scored her first Canadian Women’s Hockey League goal.

It was the Toronto Furies’ only goal in the 7-1 loss against the Montreal Canadiens, but it was significant, as it marked the first goal scored by an openly transgender athlete in the CWHL’s 11-year history.

Platt, 28, came up through the Sarnia minor hockey system, but looking back, she realized the masculinity that dominates the sport unsettled something inside her.

“I guess I started realizing something was different about me in high school,” said the St. Christopher Secondary grad, who was assigned male at birth, but identifies as female.

But while she navigated what it meant to be transgender, hockey continued to be her outlet.

“On the ice was completely different,” she said. “In my own head, on the ice, I was focused just on hockey.”

Her close friends were accepting of who she was, but others either opposed it, or just didn’t understand, she said.

“Not having the knowledge, people seem to take their own views and push them on everyone else, and don’t really know entirely what they’re talking about,” she said.

A knee-on-knee injury at 16 during a Jr. C tryout was a turning point for Platt.

After recovery, she finished her Major midget season, then joined a recreational league, but the atmosphere wasn’t conducive to her headspace, she said.

She left Sarnia to attend Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, immediately finding support in her journey. She began her transition in 2012 and after graduating, found a job teaching hockey skills to kids, which she says rekindled her love for the game.

She played one season in the Lambton Ladies Hockey League and last year played four games with the Furies as an alternate. This year, she joined the roster as a permanent member of the team.

She plays forward on the Furies, and recently returned to Sarnia for a CWHL match at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in conjunction with Hockey Day in Canada and the Girl’s Silverstick tournament weekend.

“I think everyone could learn from women’s hockey leagues,” said Platt. “Everyone’s open, supportive.”

The CWHL has welcomed Platt with open arms.

“Inclusivity has always been a major strength of our league,” said CWHL commissioner Brenda Andress in a recent press release. “We support all those involved with our league and that support is provided regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Platt currently lives with her partner in Kitchener, and continues to make a name for herself in a league that perhaps represents a new chapter in Canadian Hockey.

“I’m OK to be who I was meant to be, and play the game I love.”

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