Darrien McWatters with her gear heading to the change rooms at Memorial Arena. (Mark Brett - Western News)

Summerland transgender female follows her passion for hockey

“As soon as you put the jersey on, nothing underneath it matters.You are just a hockey player.”

For Darrien McWatters, life has always included hockey.

Since childhood the longtime Summerland resident and 20-veteran of the local volunteer fire department has loved the sport —playing, officiating and coaching.

However, it was after deciding to become the person on the outside that she was on the inside two years ago that McWatters saw how much the sport — and its community in the Okanagan — would become apart of her true identity.

As a 45-year-old parent of two teenage boys, she first told close friends and family about two years ago that she was transgendered. It eventually led to the beginning of her physical transformation.

Hockey, came a short time afterwards when she was invited to play in the South Okanagan Women’s Hockey League.

“It felt amazing, it brought something back from my past that I’ve always been passionate about,” said McWatters, whose father is the late B.C. wine legend Harry McWatters. “Then being accepted and playing in the women’s league, I am now legally female, but I just haven’t had the surgery; it was very affirming, it’s like ‘yes, this is where I belong’ and it’s just amazing with all the ladies around and their support.

“Just the feeling that it brought to me; a friend of mine said it’s like bringing a part of your old world that you loved into your new world and combining them and that’s a pretty lovely thing. I’m the same person on the inside that people know, now I just say I’m in a prettier form,” she said.

READ MORE: Community gathers for inaugural Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in Penticton

McWatters recalled the first few times she went to the arena.

Only one other person on the team knew she was transgender and nobody else realized.

“So that’s pretty much affirming right there that the ladies thought I was a biological female and even when they found out they were just nothing but supportive they said, ‘We love how passionate you are about the game and you really love being here,’” she said.

She has recently received a particularly unique invitation to join the international Team Trans hockey team for a weekend of games as part of the Friendship Series hosted by the Madison (Wisconsin) Gay Hockey Association.

McWatters decided to take this opportunity to raise some money for the cause and more importantly, raise awareness about the transgender community.

“So I thought let us make this bigger. There’s a lot of people in the community that are transgender who may not have a voice or the support I do in my world,” she said. “I want to use my voice and my visibility to make it feel like a lot more normal world for others.

“Even if I only help one person it will be worth it.”

She is looking especially forward to meeting others in Wisconsin with similar stories as hers.

“We’re all transgender or gender non-conforming,” said McWatters. “An entire team that (through) one way or another we are connected in our lives and have gone through different journeys, but similar journeys; we all the love the game whether we’re new to it or been involved in it for 30-some years.”

As one Team Trans player put it: “As soon as you put the jersey on, nothing underneath it matters.You are just a hockey player.”

In addition to playing hockey, McWatters referees minor hockey, men’s and women’s rec leagues, and also coaches kids.

Having been an on-ice official has helped her deal with any negative comments about gender issues.

“I’m a hockey referee, so if that doesn’t make you have thick skin, nothing will,” she said with a laugh.

READ MORE: Transgender woman’s human rights complaint against B.C. spa revisited

For McWatters, the realization of her gender identity was a gradual process and not without some very real struggles which continue today.

“The transgender suicide rate is the highest of any community and it can be a tough battle, but I think I can do more by being here and be more support for my kids by being here,” said McWatters, her voice going quiet. “Often it’s not about me, it’s about being something bigger than I can be and I have to remember that every day and that’s a big part of being invited to Team Trans, it’s not about me it’s about what more I can do and what more I can represent for others.”

She added the support of family and friends has helped carry her through those tough times.

“For them, it’s just about my happiness, even my kids said: ‘As long as we see you happy,’ and I guess I’m genuinely happy,” said McWatters. “Now I’m just genuinely happy I found what personal happiness by actually just loving yourself. I still struggle but we all have struggled every day.

“My journey is still fairly new and I’m still learning a lot about myself. We all have our own story, our journeys there may be similarities but I can only speak for myself and this is my story, and my life and I hope it makes it easier for people who are struggling.”


 

@PentictonNews
newstips@pentictonwesternnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Transgender-inclusive

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Just Posted

Game over for North Okanagan youth soccer

Spring league refunds 1,500 registrations amid COVID-19

Vernon pedestrian struck

Individual found on the ground on 43rd Street was responsive; seen getting to feet

North Okanagan company seeks help selecting charity

N0r-Val Rentals wants the community to nominate a recipient worthy of $3,000

UPDATE: One arrest in manhunt for ‘armed’ suspects near Enderby

Residents alarmed over increased police presence Tuesday morning

COVID-19: Vernon company creates reusable respirators

From athletes to those most at risk, VO2 Master’s adapts production to fill PPE need

Lifestyles Coffee in Lake Country creates funny video of couple stuck in quarantine

Lifestyles Coffee is located at 10058 BC-97 unit 4, Lake Country, B.C.

RCMP pursuit in Okanagan Falls leads to arrest of Penticton man

Seamus Kirby of Penticton is facing numerous charges including flight from police

Shuswap residents, distiller respond to safety, sanitization needs at seniors care facilities

Sicamous’ After Dark Distillery shifts to making sanitizer to support community

VIDEO: Teachers at Kelowna middle school shoot video to show support for students

KLO teachers Kayla Rose and Tonia Macgregor were the minds behind the gesture

Easter bunny to send ambassador to Golden for weekend drive-by

The Easter bunny will be sending his emissary, Egglebert Bunny, to celebrate Easter with Golden

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COVID-19: Kelowna’s Grey Hearts Denim to manufacture protective masks

The Kelowna based clothing company has been in operation since mid-February

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen cuts two positions

Management roles cut as a result of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Most Read