Brock McGillis, one of the first out gay professional hockey players, has been an LGBTQ+ activist ever since he came out in 2016. Afraid of backlash, McGillis did not come out until after his hockey career had ended. With his “Culture Shift Tour,” he hopes to help young players curate a more welcoming environment where coming out doesn’t have to be so scary.
The tour involves 100 speaking engagements in 100 days, all with high school teams across Canada.
Chin’s memoir chronicles a childhood spent in the buzzing, florescent-lit oasis of his family’s eatery.
“I think the language and behaviors — especially at younger ages — lead people to feel like they won’t be welcomed,” McGillis told OutSports. “That said, I would say that 98% of the players would be incredibly supportive or welcoming to a queer teammate and would be open and willing to evolve language and behaviors as they go.”
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But he also mentioned a 2022 Hockey Canada study that found homophobic words are the most penalized form of language in the game.
With his speaking tour, McGillis hopes to transform players into “shift makers” who can push back against language and behavior that makes players afraid to come out.
He also wants to dismantle the overall machismo expectations that pervade the sport. He said even straight players have approached him to admit they secretly like activities like poetry or art, interests that could be mocked if they acknowledged them in the locker room.
“These are not traditional norms within the culture,” he said, “yet they all love things that they wouldn’t typically share with teammates. And they all adhere to these norms within the culture. So why don’t we just break the norms so everyone feels like they can be themselves and comfortable in the space? And when that happens, they’re going to be less likely to judge somebody else for their differences.”
He added that in the wake of all the negative things going on the world, he hopes his tour “can be a positive.”
“Spending a hundred days away from home traveling around and speaking is a pretty daunting task,” he said. “It’s going to help people, hopefully, so I hope people see that and it inspires others and sparks some joy.”