The Toronto Six has been a confusing entity to fans this year. It is a team that has made several laudable hires including inking the legendary Angela James as an Assistant Coach and a fan favorite like Saroya Tinker but at the same time carries with it an issue since last spring that many cannot look past. Then many hockey fans were surprised or angered to learn that Toronto Six President Digit Murphy had signed on to a group with a transphobic political agenda. Within a week of the discovery, Murphy had quit the group and the Six had issued a statement in support of trans and non-binary individuals. There were unanswered questions however, and tensions were reignited by a recent interview with Murphy on Rink Stories. With the PHF about to unveil a new transgender and non-binary inclusion policy in coming weeks, Six team owner Johanna Boynton and President Murphy agreed to an interview about the issue, the Six’s learning process since then, and their plans regarding inclusivity moving forward.
D.F. Pendrys: What is your perception of why fans were upset in April and have continued to be until today?
Johanna Boynton: I think that we offended some members of our community and we have been working collectively as a board and as a staff and as an organization really to reassess our policy in transgenders athletes and non-binary athletes and really drill down on what is important to us, incredibly important to us. And to try to, one take ownership and accountability for the disappointment, but two we’re doing very careful work which means it’s taking more time probably than many of our fans and our community would like to hear from us with regards to the work we’re doing. And so I think that some of that has resulted in some frustration which we hope that we can attend to in the coming week with the work that we’re doing.
Digit Murphy: To clarify my position with the Women’s Sport Policy Group. I think they were disappointed because we let people down and we need to do better. I mean I made the position to support people. You know Donna de Varona and some of the people I knew…Martina Navratilova That was the extent of my involvement. Literally just said ‘put my picture on the website.’ I did not take the time to become informed about what my name was associated with and that was a mistake. My support of some people divided others. I didn’t mean to divide others. That’s not what I’m about. That’s not what the Toronto Six is about. That’s not inclusivity. And I disassociated my self from the group. My focus is on the Toronto Six. I’m fully dedicated to our mission and our values. I think that’s why people were really upset. About that women’s sports policy group which I disassociated myself with.
DFP: At this juncture Digit, are you aware of the Women Sport’s Policy [Working] Group’s agenda and the policies that did offend the community?
DM: I disassociated with that group and that’s all I want to say about it…I mean what would be a good answer. I really want to say this right. Ya know. What I’ve learned through the Athlete Ally discussion that we had was society and sports have a lot of work to do in their space. Over the last few months I’ve learned a lot about the challenges members of the community faces. And I want to help. And that’s really where I want to go with this. Like I don’t want to go back with the Women’s Sports Policy, I want to move forward with the Toronto Six and what our core values represent which are inclusion, education, and empowerment. And that’s where I want to go, I want to go forward.
JB: I think that’s the work that we’ve been doing. We want to do more and it’s a journey for us right? We’re always learning. We’re looking forward the work ahead of us, and the work with Athlete Ally, and Anne Lieberman and Chris Mosier. We’ve participated in webinars that are trans inclusion in sport. We’ve spent time attending trans athlete panels with Athlete Ally discussion and Anne Lieberman moderating. We’ve sat on Schuyler Bailar webinars on trans athletes legislation. We’ve had assignments like the SI article “Living Non-binary in a Binary Sports World,” I’m sure you’re aware of that article it’s got a lot of attention. Sarah Spain did a podcast on what Athlete Ally is doing. And The Daily did a trends in anti-trans legislation and there are all kinds of things that we keep tending to and learning and reading and listening. I think to Digit’s point we’ve talked a lot about moving forward and realizing there’s a lot of work to do in this space. We feel like we can be not only helpful but more inclusive and we’re excited about that. We’re trying to do it very carefully, very thoughtfully.
DFP: Will you be providing more about what has gone on with those trainings out so we get an idea of what has been learned and worked on by The Six during this time period?
JB: Yeah, (Noted it was part of a bigger conversation). Around the Federation and the board and the owners. It’s a very honest. It’s a very collaborative group of owners and organizations and very committed to this topic and very committed to getting right. And that means we that have to go carefully through our conversations because we are a very healthy, sort of respectful group, but that means also that not everyone has the same lines of education or thought. And its getting to where we really are a collaborative group but it takes time. Just as it took time to get a unanimous feel around the re-brand. That was months in the making. This likewise, months in the making, in particular, these policies that we’re working on, we really want to reflect inclusion, and comfort for everybody. Representation matters. It’s really important to the league and to The Six that we get it right. And that people feel more included and know we can do it better and that’s what we want to be sure to do, and that takes time and that takes conversation and reflection and thoughtful conversation to be sure we are doing it well.
At this point Digit Murphy asked the author what they would like to see but due to time constraints the author politely declined and said they would prefer to provide feedback outside of the interview.
DFP: I do have to followup the recent interview on Rink Stories. There was a moment in which you were asked the PHF Transgender policy and you expressed confusion between that and the Women’s Sports Policy [Working Group] agenda. I just wanted to ask. You are familiar with the PHF transgender policy and the difference between the Women’s Sports policy agenda correct?
DM: Well we’re still working on the policy for the PHF.
DFP: I mean the current one.
DM: The current PHF policy.
DFP: Yes, the current one in place.
DM: Well, I’m only understanding that that is going to be changed sooner rather than later. That’s the one that I’m looking forward to hearing.
DFP: I’m just asking if you’re familiar with the current policy that is in in place. It is going to be changed. But it is in place. Just in how it’s difference from what what…because you had asked the interviewer what the differences were between the PHF transgender policy that is in place and the policies of the Women’s Sport Policy Working Group. I was just wondering if you were aware of the differences?
DM: Oh yeah yeah yeah, I see where you’re going. Honestly, when I was talking to the guy. He just went there, I was a little taken aback. It is my responsibility to understand and I did not articulate my answer properly in that interview and I blew that as a human. Totally was not on point there.
DFP: I do have one other question. You did when responding to a different question describe a group as ‘negative nelly drama creators.” What group of people were you specifically referring to by that designation?
DM: I was way out of line there. That’s not. That’s not right. I should not…It was inappropriate of me to marginalize anyone for their beliefs and opinions. My comments were inappropriate, and I apologize for that.
DFP: Do you feel that you owe people an apology for being part of the working group for the short period that you were?
DM: “ think that yeah. I do. I definitely should have researched it more as the President and I apologize for. I am so sorry that I let anyone down honestly. I don’t know if you watched our dance videos. This is really about having fun and celebrating women’s hockey, and celebrating education, (unintelligible), empowerment. To be honest it crushes me to even…it makes sad. I don’t want to be represented like this. I want to help. I’m all about helping women create opportunity. I don’t want to get into it, but thank you for this interview.
DFP: Do you think the apology should have come sooner?
DM: Ya know. We’re all on a journey right? I can’t go back. I’m learning everyday. All we can do is look to the future and move forward and that’s what this interview is all about. Again thank you.
JB: And if I can just add to that. I hear what you’re saying D.F. But we really it has a great opportunity for us to be more reflective about how we illustrate our values through our actions, our words, our policies all that. So this is opportunity to do better. We (unintelligible)… case in point of a lot of hard work to say one, however they identify, one to be inclusive, feel included, and comfortable here and likewise our actions, our policies, and our words should reflect the same. And so this for us just a great opportunity…(unintelligible). Because we do believe transgender, non-binary athletes should see equal opportunities to every other athlete to be competing in PHF. And we gotta make sure that all aligns with all the work we’re doing. From All the people working here to our policies to all that we put out there. And that’s as I said it’s a journey. We’re really serious and (unintelligible). We’re very excited to have the opportunity to talk about some of this stuff. Because we care deeply about, and about increasing inclusivity that doesn’t marginalizing anybody.
DFP: You said being excited about talking about it there was a very long period where there was not a lot of discussion this issue and requests for interview were not met and issues were not replied to by your media person. What was the reasoning for the lack of response at the time?
JB: Respectfully you know we have an opportunity here to connect today and appreciate you have a platform for this opportunity and that we can be in here and have a conversation. I think looking forward is the better bet in our journey as we learn and grow.
DFP: When will we begin to see more of the initiatives coming that will be about inclusivity from the [Toronto Six]?
JB: First and foremost, we plan to have a revised Trans Athlete and Non-binary Athlete policy coming out before this season. We hope to make that announcement in the coming weeks of what that is, so people can see and evaluate the work that we have been doing for the past several months. That’s been in close consultation with Athlete Ally and Anne Lieberman and that whole group. Again it’s careful careful work and we really want to get it right. It will absolutely be out before our season begins so that everybody will have an opportunity to see that. And then moving forward with partnerships and the like that will be the next step in the work that we’re doing. I hope we’ll see much of that in the coming season. Because we are in conversations with many about how we can do that. And again, just want to be working with people who want to join us in that and how to join us in that. There’s a number of ways that we’re looking at.
D.F. Pendrys is a trans non-binary freelance reporter and editor of DFPSports.net.