On field hockey and hate

On Nov. 2, the Swampscott field hockey team hosted Dighton-Rehoboth for a playoff game. The matchup, broadcast by Swampscott TV and uploaded to YouTube on the Big Blue Athletics account, now has more than 31,000 views.

The game went like any other until the third quarter. With three minutes and 14 seconds left, a Big Blue player made a shot on net, but accidentally hit a Dighton-Rehoboth player in the mouth instead. The girl who was hit, according to follow-up reporting by Boston 25 news, went to the hospital for her injuries.

Sports — yes, even at the high-school level — can lead to some nasty injuries. Having played softball for more than seven years, I have left games and practices with more than a handful of injuries. And yes, some of these injuries were caused by my opponents (I will never forget the bruise that painted my knee purple and green for weeks and made me limp for a while after I was hit by a pitch). Broken arms, concussions, and loose teeth are part of the risks of sports.

When these injuries occur during a game, players take a knee, the medical team and coaches run out to help and assess the situation, and the game continues. You and I, along with the players, feel horrible, but we move on.

But people did not move on after this injury. Instead, the accident and subsequent reaction was clipped from the broadcast of the game and shared across social-media platforms. In the comments and reposts, people called for the Swampscott player to be sued, removed from the team, imprisoned, and even mutilated. Other commenters called the player “a narcissistic cheater,” “disgusting,” “mentally ill,” and alleged that the Swampscott player came from a family with domestic problems. 

Some posts even tried to convince the other players on Swampscott’s field hockey team to turn against their teammate and disavow their fellow player.

There is one reason that these comment sections turned into pits of vitriol: the commenters think Swampscott’s player is a transgender girl.

First and foremost, the MIAA explicitly allows for boys to play on a traditionally girls team if there is no boys team. This is not a new rule. It was adopted in 1979 after Attorney General v. MIAA found that outright banning males from playing on female teams if there was no other option to participate in the sport violated the Equal Rights Amendment.

Since then, the MIAA handbook states, “A girl may play on a boys’ team if that sport is not offered in the school for the girl, and a boy may play on a girls’ team if that sport is not offered in the school for the boy.”

But I want to set aside the debate about whether or not co-ed sports teams are a good idea for a moment. I even would like to set aside the debate about trans athletes and the categories in which they should compete.

What happened after the Nov. 2 game was, frankly, shameful. Hundreds if not thousands of adults took to the internet to berate and threaten a high-school student and his family because of a freak accident with an unfortunate outcome.

To make matters worse the video was also reposted to social media platforms by the account Libs of TikTok, an anti-LGBT hate account run by Chaya Raichik that has been linked to the online and in-person harassment of LGBT-supportive groups and individuals including Boston Children’s Hospital and various educators.

Adults attacked a high-school athlete because they thought they saw a trans girl accidentally hurt a cisgender girl. That was enough to justify a slew of hateful and violent posts directed at the male player, his family, and Big Blue Athletics.

These types of public calls for discrimination and violence against trans people are becoming more and more acceptable. Under the guise of protecting children, defending women’s sports, and religious liberty, trans people have increasingly become punching bags.

But there is nothing protective, defensive, or righteous about logging onto Facebook and inciting violence against a high-school field hockey player.

As someone who attended both an all-girls high school and historically women’s college, I know how special female-only spaces are. I also know that trans people only make them more special. I have had the honor to get to know many trans people. They are my peers, my mentors, and my friends. They are not groomers. They are not a threat.

I want to speak directly to those who took time out of their day to publicly berate this player.

You need to reassess your actions. You saw a shocking clip of a horrible injury and instead of expressing support for the hurt girl, you berated a high schooler. You are scared or confused by trans people, perhaps both, and you took out your fear and confusion on a teenager through social media. Chances are, you do not even know this player’s name. Nonetheless, you felt justified to harass him.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Where there should have been empathy, people turned as quickly as they could just to degrade a non-existent trans person. This situation is but a reflection of the hostility and discrimination trans people face today in society at large.

Emma Fringuelli is a staff photographer and writer for The Weekly News.