By Jeff Kagan
I first met Stephen Alexander in the fall of 2005 when he joined the New York City Gay Hockey Association. I was then and continue to be the director of the organization which provides an environment free of harassment and discrimination for members and friends of the LGBT community to play ice hockey and fulfill their athletic aspirations.
When we first met, what stood out most to me about Stephen was his positive attitude and his sense of humor. Always smiling, he could jump right
into a conversation with anyone. For the record, Stephen is transgender and identifies as straight/queer, meaning his gender identity is male and his sexual orientation is towards women. I was recently asked by Compete Magazine to interview Stephen on the subject of “Who is Stephen Alexander?”
Jeff Kagan: Stephen, thanks for speaking with me to discuss a subject that I’m sure is very dear to your heart: Who is Stephen Alexander?
Stephen Alexander: (laughs) Oh God, I struggle with this. I’m a mix of identities struggling, thriving and navigating through this world. I’m a friend, son, brother, coach, teammate, ally, special educator, entrepreneur, activist and philosopher. I’m most happy in my life just being the uncle to two amazing kids.
Since this interview is for a sports-themed magazine, let’s talk about sports.
OK. I love all sports. I gravitate toward anything with a team dynamic where a ball or puck is used and people have to work together—soccer, basketball, softball, tennis, volleyball, etc. I like to see how well I work with others and how well others work with me.
For many athletes, sports are about more than just the game. Do you feel that it gives you something other than a workout?
Sports provided me with the opportunity to find focus on a process I loved. I loved being competitive. I loved the camaraderie of teammates. There were times when I was alone but I knew some people were depending on me and I didn’t want to let them down. We were connected and sports has helped me to understand that.
Why is it important for you to go public about your gender identity?
Being visible helps to further the discussion about our struggles and then opens a channel for us to act, improving the quality of life for all of us. I hope to one day hear of a young trans athlete/coach participating on championship teams at professional levels within the NFL, MLB, MLS and NHL.
When did you first realize who you were attracted to? And who you were on the inside?
I’m straight/queer. I’m attracted to women who identify as pansexual, bisexual or who are attracted to “ftms” (referring to transgender people who are “female-to-male”). I knew I was attracted to the feminine when I was a teenager. I’ve known I was a boy since I was aware of myself, probably around four years old.
Did your parents expose you to gender-conforming activities?
They signed me up for sports with girls, gave me Cabbage Patch dolls which I hated (laughs)! Dressed me in dresses for formal/family functions which I also hated. Early on in school, when kids lined up to go to the bathroom, I was forced into the girl’s bathroom when I knew I didn’t want to be a girl.
When did you come to the realization that you are transgender?
In college at a Catholic institution. I was taking an abnormal psychology class. While flipping through the textbook I came across a photo of a transwoman labeled “Gender Identity Disorder.” I read through the description and said to myself, “This sounds like what I have. Great, I have a disorder…” So I struggled again with the question, “What is wrong with me?” But now my questioning has transformed to how beautiful I and others are now and can become even more beautiful in the future.
What was the coming out process like for you? How did family and friends react?
Not great; it was a long process. Some of my family thought I was a lesbian. Some were OK, some were supportive. No one really celebrated. I hope society at some point learns to celebrate the process.
What is your hope for the trans community in the future?
I hope that one day we live in a world where trans folks don’t feel they have to leave their families and friends to become who they are. There are too many stories about people being abandoned. My story at this moment in time is unique. While I did not stay home to transition into my place as Stephen, I was able to return home and be a part of the community I grew up in.
As you are becoming more and more visible to the public, what are your thoughts on transgender celebrities and their contribution to society?
I find them to be empowering. I also understand they will have critics. We are here to create dialogue. Being visible is the first step to having more conversations. I appreciate those who have come out, are coming out and will continue to come out. These stories help us to celebrate and make the lives of transgender people real. With our stories we can continue to address the many societal struggles and be active in solving them.
Photos courtesy of Stephen Alexander
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