Rose's Story


 

Sep 07, 2018 by Mike Davies  Peterborough Examiner Sports Director

When Rose Powers came out to her family at age 16 it was one of the most difficult things she's ever done.

It was a stressful moment full of anxiety and fear of whether she'd be accepted. She feels fortunate her family supported her. She also found acceptance in the sports world that was a big part of her life.

But Powers knows her story is not everyone's story in the LBGTQ community.

The locker-room or playing field is not always a welcoming environment for gay or transgender athletes. Powers and a group of friends are trying to change that.

She is launching the Sport A Rainbow initiative with the help of the Peterborough Century 21 Lakers during the Mann Cup.

The Lakers are wearing Sport A Rainbow stickers on the back of their helmets and taking the pledge to promote diversity and inclusiveness. Powers' father Len Powers, a local Hall of Fame athlete, is on the Lakers board of directors.

"I feel like I have a good story," Powers said.

"I feel like I was very supported by my family when I came out but I know the fear, I felt that fear before, of having to tell my parents I was gay. It was scary."

Her family's support didn't shield her from prejudice. In the 1990s, she was named coach of a midget girls hockey team participating in the Ontario Winter Games in Peterborough. A small group of parents outed Powers to the players and other parents and tried to block her from coaching.

"They didn't want me to coach the team because I was gay," she said.

"It was heart-breaking. I questioned whether I should because I didn't want to put people out. I don't want to make people uncomfortable. It was a very difficult time."

The players reached out to Powers and told her, "We want female representation in female hockey and we want you to coach this team. We don't care about the other stuff. It's not important to us."

She stayed on as coach.

"The more I talk to people and try to spread the word about inclusion the more stories I hear from people who struggle. Women and men who felt they needed to be out of sports before they actually came out. I think that's very unfortunate," Powers said.

The logo includes a rainbow heart within the word Sport which is contained in parentheses to signify inclusion.

"The rainbow colours are a representation of diversity," she said. "Our goal is for all those involved in sport to stand up for diversity and inclusion."

Part of the mandate is to remove insensitive language from sport environments.

It's not a coincidence, she says, so few professional athletes have come out especially in hockey.

"There have been 10,000 NHL hockey players. Stats would say there are two to three LBGTQ community players in those dressing rooms and nobody has come out. Why is that? I'd love to say we are past this and we don't need this, that everybody is accepted for who they are, but that is not the case or we'd have leaders and people in sports. Idols and role models standing up in these sports saying it's OK."

While society has come a long way Powers said she still hears stories of athletes afraid to come out. Youth are particularly vulnerable as she's seen in her job as a crisis counsellor for Peterborough Youth Services.

"I see a lot of youth struggling to fit in. Struggling with identity," she said.

Powers has approached the Peterborough Girls Hockey Association about wearing the logo. She's also talked to the Ontario Women's Hockey Association. She hopes to take the message beyond Peterborough. She received a request for stickers, through Sport A Rainbow's website, from California.

Powers appreciates the Lakers' support.

"To be able to launch with the Peterborough Lakers on the national stage with the Mann Cup, I can't ask for anything better," she said.