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Harrison Browne is sending a mixed message by playing women’s hockey

patti dawn swansson

I must confess that I’m conflicted about Harrison Browne.

I’m delighted for him, because he’s begun to live his truth, but I’m mildly disappointed in him because he’s sending mixed signals by living only a portion of his truth.

For those of you who haven’t been formally introduced, Browne is a transgender male on the roster of the Metropolitan Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League. Yes, he plays with the girls. Still. That’s why the question he most oft fields is this: If you identify as a man, why are you still playing women’s hockey?

“It’s either I continue playing a sport that I love, and be a professional athlete, or I start living as myself to everyone and start being who I am on the inside reflecting in the mirror,” he explains in the well-done TSN feature The Shift. “Both of those outcomes are so enticing to me, but I have to choose.”

He has chosen women’s hockey over testosterone hormone therapy and surgery.

“Hockey is everything to me,” he says.

“I feel that my message is more important now than ever and I feel that it’s more powerful as an active athlete. You might be thinking, ‘Will he ever physically transition?’ Yes, but not until I’m done spreading as much awareness as I can as an active athlete and as a pre-transition trans man.”

Therein lies my conflict.

Exactly what message is Browne sending about transgender individuals? That we’re confused? That we’re so messed up mentally that we don’t know who we are? I mean, he’s asking us to call him Harrison, not his birth name (or, to use a transgender term, his ‘dead’ name) Hailey, and he’s asking us to use male pronouns when referencing him. I get that. It’s hugely significant. It’s vital to most transgender people.

Harrison Browne

Two years ago, for example, one of my dearest friends asked if she could call me by my ‘dead’ name.

“Would you take offence?” she asked. “In no way would it be disrespectful.”

“Yes,” I told her, “I’m afraid I would be very offended. I would also be hurt.”

I haven’t seen or heard from her since, but losing friends and/or family is not uncommon for transgender individuals. It’s a price we sometimes pay, like it or not.

Anyway, Harrison is Harrison, and to call him anything else is a rejection, offensive and, depending on the person, the circumstance and the intent, it can be cruel and crippling. Trust me. Been there, had it done to me. It can hurt like hell.

Having said that, I have difficulty with Browne’s message because, by playing in the NWHL, he’s contradicting himself. He presents as a 24-year-old man (he looks like a teenage boy) in his everyday, walkabout life, but he chooses not to begin his physical transition. Taking testosterone would render him ineligible to play women’s hockey. Such an inconvenience. So, here’s how some might read his message: He wants to have it both ways.

Which invites criticism, cynicism and confusion from beyond the transgender sphere.

I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. Browne says once he takes his first shot of testosterone, hockey, which is his “everything,” is over. Well, no, it isn’t. Women’s hockey would be over, but there’s this thing called men’s leagues. I know, I know. He’s only 5-feet-4 and 120 pounds. So what? I was 5-feet-5, 128 pounds when I played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and I was only an inch taller and still 128 pounds when I participated in the Winnipeg Jets’ inaugural National Hockey League rookie camp. I was a sprig.

But, as I said, that’s the devil’s advocate in me saying those things.

I will emphasize this: There is no road map for transitioning. We all do it on our own clock and on our own terms. The last thing Harrison needs is for dozens of people, myself included, telling him how and when it’s supposed to be done. That’s why I’d never suggest that Browne is betraying some perceived transgender cause. It’s his call.

Still, he’s sending a very mixed message, and I’m not convinced that’s helpful in our cynical and skeptical world.

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About the Curling Whisperer, Moosie Turnbull…mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa from Cam Newton and Jourdan Rodrigue…letting women-beaters into the CFL…and Kitty Cait is sorry, too…

Random thoughts before the candle goes out and the sun comes up…

Canada didn’t invent curling. That’s down to the wee Scots. But we acted as if the game was ours, winning 12 of the first 14 men’s world championships.

Then Ray Turnbull had to go and stick his long, thin nose into other people’s business.

Moosie Turnbull

Our Moosie couldn’t leave well enough alone. No sir. He just had to take his Manitoba tuck delivery and show it off for all the world to see. Next thing you know, the Swedes, Swiss, Norwegians and Americans were kicking our hoser butts. Most years they still do on the women’s side.

And that’s the legacy Turnbull leaves behind. He was the Curling Whisperer.

Moosie, who surrendered to cancer at age 78 on Friday, has a resume that few, if any, can parallel. Yet it isn’t his Brier title and silver medal at the worlds in 1965, nor his tutorials to curling-curious nations around the globe, nor his 25 years beside Vic Rauter and Linda Moore in the TSN broadcast booth that I’ll remember most about Turnbull. It’s the person. He was a big, lovely man, full of enthusiasm.

Whenever I saw Moosie at the Brier, the Scotties, a women’s or men’s world tournament, or his home hangout, the Granite Curling Club at One Granite Way in Winnipeg, he was always quick with a warm greeting, a smile and a story. Moosie talked curling like Donald Trump talks about himself. All. The. Time. But it never got boring.

I last saw Moosie at a Brier in Calgary. I was writing for the Tankard Times and we had occasion to chat after one of the bleary-eyed, early-morning draws. Among other things, we discussed his ’65 Brier win with Bronco Braunstein’s outfit, which included the legendary Don Duguid and Ron Braunstein.

Unfortunately,” said Moosie, who threw lead stones, “we fell short at the world championships that year. We lost to Bud Somerville and his U.S. team in Perth, Scotland. I guess that’s the one regret.”

A single regret. I’d say that’s a curling life well lived. So long, Moosie.

Cam Newton

Apologies, which we’ve all been required to make, are wonderful when not forced or scripted, and most mea culpas you hear from professional athletes are exactly that—forced and scripted. Which, of course, lends itself to skepticism re sincerity. Cam Newton certainly sounded sincere when he delivered a mea culpa to women the world over for his dumb-ass remark about how damn “funny” it is to hear a “female” discuss receiver routes in football. “Don’t be like me, be better than me,” he said, scant hours after Dannon had advised the Carolina Panthers quarterback that he wouldn’t be pitching their Oikos yogurt anymore. Okay, Cam is sorry. Except that doesn’t put his genie back in the bottle. He said what he said about women. Just a bunch of airheads. Can’t scrub that stain away.

On the matter of ugly stains, it turns out that the target of Newton’s objectionable conduct, Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer, is, if not a raging racist, a big fan of racism. She sent out some truly disgusting tweets while in college, one of which was a salute to her dad for being “super racist as we pass through Navajo land.” Someone else, perhaps her dad, was “the best. Racist jokes the whole drive home.” And there was something about fast car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. being a “bitch nigga.” Naturally, Rodrigue is “deeply sorry.” Probably not as sorry as she will be when the Observer hauls her tush off the football beat. I mean, the newspaper has no choice, right? It cannot possibly keep her on the Panthers beat when the great majority of the people she interacts with are black men. Her cred is totally shot.

Since apologies seem to be vogue, I’d like to take this opportunity to say “I’m sorry” for everything I’ve ever written.

Johnny Manziel

I take no issue with jock journalists sprinkling their copy with political commentary, but some scribes absolutely should stick to sports. Take Steve Simmons of Postmedia as an e.g. Last October, he wrote this: “Ray Rice lost his career to domestic violence. Shouldn’t (New York) Giants kicker Josh Brown have lost his already for similar reasons without video?” Yet here was Simmons just last month, writing about Johnny Manziel coming to the Canadian Football League: “Personally, I think the CFL is stronger, maybe more fun, possibly more fan-appealing, with Manziel playing or trying to play the Canadian game.” So, there should be no room in the game for men like Rice and Brown, both of whom have physically abused women, but let’s all open our arms to Manziel because it’ll be so much “more fun” having a woman-beater on a CFL roster. Earth to Simmons! Manziel twice beat up his former girlfriend and landed in court because of it. He threatened to kill her. She was granted a protection order that remains in effect. Manziel is cut from the same bolt of cloth as Rice and Brown. If they don’t belong (and they surely do not), neither does he.

Well, look who’s having herself a hissy fit. Why, it’s none other than Caitlyn Jenner, who, once upon a time, starred in a reality TV show that was a self-homage and a transgender train wreck. A very dense Kitty Cait, much to the astonishment and dismay or her hand-picked, paid trans posse, used her I Am Cait platform to assure us that Donald Trump, if elected president of the United States, would be very good for women and the LGBT community. So she voted for him. And now? Anti-trans Trump and his anti-trans sidekick, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, are “a disgrace.” Kitty Cait is absolutely shocked that the Transphobe-in-Chief continues to roll out an anti-transgender agenda. Like, helloooo. Anybody home, Cait? You really didn’t see this coming? Total ditz.

Kitty Cait cruising in her Austin-Healey and Trump cap.

Kitty Cait spent part of her summer sucking up to the transgender community. Seems she had a wardrobe malfunction, whereby she mistakenly (as if) wore a Trump Make America Great Again cap on a coffee run and, somewhere between Starbucks and the Malibu mansion, the paparazzi spotted her cruising in her Austin-Healey convertible (do all trans women drive those?). Click went the cameras. Not a good optic when the president and cronies are attacking the T in LGBT. She’s made a vow to never again leave home wearing her MAGA ball cap. Never, never, never. She even threatened to toss the thing into the dust bin. She has not, however, promised to do the same thing with Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

While reading about Kitty Cait’s great ball cap flap, I recalled her once telling a reporter that “the hardest part about being a woman is figuring out what to wear.” Ya, it must be such a hassle deciding between a Trump hat and something that might have a touch of class.

Just wondering: Has anyone on CNN ever said something positive about Donald Trump? I’m not a Trumpite. I think he’s quite the buffoon. A dangerous buffoon. But, really, the constant trashing can be overbearing. I suppose that’s why we have buttons on our remotes, though.

Brief review of the season’s second episode of Will & Grace: Not as good as the premiere. Not even close. I must make a point of asking my gay male friends if they find the show humorous.


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Coming out is hard enough without being told how to do it and how to act afterwards

Life is full of little surprises that sometimes feel like an ambush. Like when you realize you’re gay or transgender. What do you do now?

patti dawn swansson

Coming out is seldom, if ever, easy.

It’s like there are two of you, one sitting on each shoulder, and both are engaged in push-me-pull-you mental gymnastics that can be crippling, if not paralyzing.

The positive of the two yous is determined to push you out of the closet, trying to sway you with comforting assurances that family, friends, co-workers, classmates and everyday acquaintances will welcome and embrace the gay you with inviting arms and adoring smiles.

“It’ll be safe,” she whispers. “You have nothing to worry about. You’ll be free and the world will finally see the true you. They’ll love you.”

Yet, just as you are about to step out, the other you pulls you back with words of caution, if not scare tactics: “Leave this closet,” she says, waving a red flag, “and you will be rejected, degraded, humiliated, bullied, sullied and maybe even beaten up. Is that what you really want your life to become?”

It is as I have written: Discovering yourself is the interesting part, accepting yourself is the hard part, revealing yourself is the frightening part that goes bump in the night.

It would be helpful, of course, were there a How-To Manual for Coming Out. We could simply turn to the appropriate chapter and, presto, we’re out and we’re proud gay, lesbian and transgender women, men and children. Life goes on tickety-boo. Except it isn’t quite as simple as picking up a copy of Popular Mechanics to learn how to change the oil on your SUV.

There is no right way to come out. There is no wrong way, either, although my personal experience taught me that the right and wrong of coming out is very much left to interpretation.

I advised those closest to me in a lengthy late-night email and, as I was to discover from a dear friend who has since basically disappeared from my life, it was callous, insensitive, hurtful and ill-timed. How dare I not advise her before all others, and how thoughtless of me to dump such naked honesty on her when she was dealing with her own level of personal strife.

“We had a special relationship,” she reminded me in an accusatory tone a number of years later, at our first get-together after the fact. “You should have told me first.”

“We have to do this in our own way and on our own timetable,” I tried to explain in an unflinching way that, I suppose, might have come across as clinical and unfeeling. “Each of us is different. We find our own way. We feel when the time is right, so we do it and expect the worst but hope for the best.”

Is there an element of selfishness in all that. By definition, absolutely. You are foremost and uppermost. Yet you also acknowledge that others might be wounded, which only adds more uncertainty to the original, push-me-pull-you pile of confusion.

It doesn’t end there, either.

Now that you’re out, are you supposed to behave and talk a certain way? That is, do you now immerse yourself into the gay collective and become a mouthpiece and advocate for the gay rights cause? Or do you simply go about the business of being you? Again, that’s an individual choice.

Shawn Barber

This past April, world champion and Olympic pole vaulter Shawn Barber came out in 54 words on his Facebook page. He was gay and he was proud. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on.

“A person has the right to say as little or as much as they want about their orientation,” observed Jim Buzinski on the website Outsports.

Agreed.

But wait. Here we are three months later and the other main scribe at Outsports, Cyd Zeigler, has scolded Barber, who, at the recent Canadian track and field championships, told the Toronto Star that his being gay is “something that shouldn’t be a big deal.”

“Declaring to the world that you’re gay—even if it was in desperately early morning hours—then going into hiding is hardly the behavior of a champion,” Zeigler wrote in a gratuitous bullying, attack piece. “Barber, instead, has cringed. For whatever reason, he has decided that the whole ‘gay thing’ isn’t a necessary part of his identity as an athlete. So he’s pulled back. He’s stayed silent. No, even worse, he has belittled his own coming out.”

Zeigler has since softened his stance and rewritten the article, but his original remarks make it abundantly clear that Barber has let down the team, so to speak, and they serve as a classic example of not only a writer going well over the line of fairness in commentary but also of gays eating their own.

Coming out is hard enough and Shawn Barber is doing it his way, same as Zeigler did it his way and I did it my way. Expecting us to be anything more than who we are is not only unfair, it flies in the face of what gays desire more than anything from society—to be accepted for who we are.


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Ol’ Maggie Court’s crazy ramblings a reminder that the LGBT collective still has plenty of work to do

Margaret Court says tennis “is full of lesbians.” As if that’s a bad thing.

patti dawn swansson

Moreover, ol’ Maggie informs us that there were a couple of devil lesbians on the professional tennis circuit back in her day and, get this, they would take young players to parties. Imagine that. Young women partying. With lesbians. The horrors.

Ol’ Maggie has been saying a whole lot of oddball things lately and, if we are to believe the preacher lady from the Land of Oz, civilization is caught in the grip of a global plot orchestrated by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender collective. Those pesky gays are stealing the minds of our children, don’t you know?

“That’s what Hitler did, that’s what communism did—got the mind of children,” she advises us. “And it’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.”

Hmmm. Kind of reminds me of what the Roman Catholic Church tried to do to me when I was a sprig.

The nuns, when not whacking us on the knuckles with a yardstick, would regale us with far-out tales of fantasy gardens, poisonous fruit, hell fires, voodoo antics like turning the rib of a man into a woman and, best of all, talking snakes in a magical tree. Their stories were better than anything we watched on The Wonderful World of Disney. But apparently Margaret Court believes all the Bible-based, brainwashing blarney that my receptive mind was force-fed, and it’s quite clear that the great Australian tennis champion is convinced that gay and (especially) transgender people are the spawn of Satan.

“That’s all the devil,” she says of transgender kids.

Ol’ Maggie Court

Poor, ol’ Maggie. There’s just no escaping conniving gay men and (especially) lesbians. We’re always shoving ourselves in her face, so to speak. Why, it’s gotten so bad that she can’t even travel hither and yon on Qantas anymore because the airline’s CEO, Alan Joyce, is a gay man who, not surprisingly, promotes same-sex marriage, which is, in the world according to Maggie, “alternative, unhealthy, unnatural.” The right to wed is “not theirs to take.”

“I believe marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible,” she harrumphs.

Well, it’s about your Bible, Maggie: One person’s truth is another’s fiction.

The prune-faced preacher lady has been battered fore and aft for her Bible-thumping bleatings, which included a disapproving and extremely tacky tsk-tsking of Aussie tennis pro Casey Dellacqua and her partner Amanda Judd following the birth of the lesbian couple’s second child, a joyous event that Court greeted with “sadness” because the newborn has two mamas and zero papas.

I’d rather not join the Maggie-bashing chorus, though, because I think she’s unwittingly done the gay community a small favor.

The hell, you say. How can that be so?

Well, to be clear, I find her drawing a parallel between the LGBT collective and a mass murderer, Adolph Hitler, repugnant. It is not only offensive in the extreme, it shows she clearly has lost both the plot and the argument. She appears to be totally off her nut. But…I also think ol’ Maggie has provided us with a reminder, albeit appalling—at the top of Pride Month, no less—that we still have work to do. The fight for acceptance and equality continues. It has not been won. We must keep society’s feet to the fire.

I suppose we really shouldn’t care what comes out of this nutter’s mouth, but Court is a legendary sportswoman. No one has matched her two dozen tennis Grand Slam singles titles. One of the playing venues at the Australian Open in Melbourne is named in her honor (for now). And she is a pastor (the argument could be made that she’s more of a cult leader given that she created her own church, the Victory Life Centre in Perth). Thus, her voice carries some degree of heft. If not, the pushback from gay, transgender and, indeed, straight people against her homo/transphobic tripe wouldn’t be so robust.

I’ll just say this about that: Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing, but so is the freedom to shut the hell up. Ol’ Maggie might want to give that a try.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m stepping out to party with some lesbian tennis players.