Let’s all welcome Jeff today on RGR Trans Aware Week. Jeff is the co-host of Jeff & Will’s Big Gay Fiction Podcast and author of the ‘Hat Trick’ series. He is here today giving us some background on the series and what his inspiration was. He is also generously offering a box set of ‘Hat Trick’ which the three full length novels as well as three in-between shorts. Thank you so much Jeff for stopping by today.
(Be sure to check out Jeff and Will’s Big Gay Fiction Podcast and to see their feature on RGR’s Trans Aware Event click HERE.)
About the story: TJ, a female to male trans teen, appears in Hat Trick 3: Penalty Shot. Simon and Alex are approached by a flamboyant goalie to coach a youth hockey team. Scottie, a very good goalie, feels he’s been denied a spot on a team because he’s gay and he asks Simon and Alex for help. TJ finds details about the team forming at the local LGBT center and asks Simon, who works there, about it. TJ’s excited to play again. When he decided to identify as a boy, the girls team would no longer take him and neither would the guys (he’s not transitioning but he is living as a male) Over the course of the story, TJ develops an attraction to a teammate, Bryan and they start down the path of a relationship.
TJ’s story is part of the overall secondary arc in HT3 involving the youth team.
Inspiration: The inspiration for TJ came from a guy I played hockey with for a number of years in NYC. I originally met Skyler before his transition and he was kind enough to have a candid conversation with me about transitioning and trans issues. He also beta read TJ’s parts of the book, as well as some of Simon’s scenes with the teens since Skyler works with youth as a social worker. If it hadn’t been for Skyler’s openness and help, I wouldn’t have felt confident about bringing TJ into the book because I wouldn’t have been sure that it would be right.
So there’s a little bit about TJ’s specific story as well as the inspiration behind it.
Simon Roberts’ plan for his senior year is simple — help his high school hockey team win the state championship and earn a college scholarship so he can get away from his dysfunctional family, especially his belligerent father and obnoxious older brother.
When the Central High Falcons open their season with an away game, Simon is forced to deal with the problem he’s struggled with for months — his crush on teammate Alex Miller. After the game that night, Alex makes an unexpected announcement — he’s gay, and in love with Simon.
Simon’s elated but scared to openly acknowledge that he’s gay, especially with so much at stake in their senior year. Now that they’re out to each other they have to decide what to do next. Should they date? Should they keep things between them secret? What about the team? Can Simon and Alex hide that they’re more than friends from the guys they spend so much time with?
Then a simple kiss is witnessed and their secret is out. The team fractures, and Simon’s family explodes as news about the gay hockey players quickly spreads. The guys must figure out how to move forward with everyone watching. Being the center of attention was in no way part of Simon’s plan for the year.
Can Simon juggle school, commitments to the team, his new relationship, and an unexpected tragedy all before the end of the hockey season?
The events from two years ago are still fresh in Simon Robert’s mind as he and Alex Miller begin their sophomore year at the University of Michigan. Nightmares are a routine occurrence as Simon relives the crimes his father and brother committed. Now, with his father ill and asking to see him, Simon must decide if he should see the man who tried to send him away to be fixed. And then there’s Zach. Simon’s conflicted about making peace with his older brother who tormented him as they grew up and caused him to be outed to his parents, friends and teammates.
Alex wants Simon to find closure, but Alex is furious at the thought of forgiving Zack. With no clear direction, Simon finds guidance from an unexpected, but very welcome, source.
At the same time, the University’s student body is faced with an anti-gay attacker among them. When he witnesses an attack first hand, memories threaten to overwhelm Simon. At the same time, he’s also emboldened to take action, which might turn him into a target.
Despite the distractions, Simon works towards his future as he begins working with teens at the local LGBT community center. He has the opportunity to use his story as a teaching tool to help others come out. While he’s never enjoyed telling his story, he looks for the courage to speak his truth to an audience.
Luckily, not everything is chaos. Simon and Alex mark their anniversary in epic fashion, continue to play hockey and hang out with good friends. But with many demands on them, can Simon and Alex set up the rebound necessary to create the scoring opportunity for their future?
The relationship that began when Simon Roberts and Alex Miller were in high school is about to cross another milestone as they start their final year at the University of Michigan. It’s been four amazing years of love, friends, and hockey.
Now it’s time to help pay it forward.
When a talented sixteen-year-old goalie is denied placement on a youth league roster, he asks Simon and Alex to coach a team of LGBT youth and allies. With the determination, hard work, and help of an amazing group of friends, they rally the team towards a winning season.
In the final installment of the best-selling Hat Trick trilogy, Simon and Alex find everything they’ve worked so hard for is in jeopardy. When they’re thrown a devastating curve ball, the far-reaching implications put their entire future together on the line.
I’d just returned to my homework reading when someone else came to the desk. This guy I’d seen around, but we’d never talked.
“Hi.” He looked unsure as he stood there, so I smiled, hoping I could put him at ease. “Can I help you?”
“Uhm, hi,” the young man said, stumbling over his words.
“You’re Simon, right? Play for the Wolverines?”
It was hard to tell since the desk was on a raised platform, but he seemed slightly shorter than me. He had a great mop of super dark curly hair and brown eyes. While his expression was serious, his voice was higher than I expected.
“Yes and yes,” I said.
“Cool. It’s so great to meet you. I love watching you play. Anyway, I figure if anyone knows what’s up with the hockey flyer I saw upstairs it’d be you. Is it for real?”
Talking hockey seemed to help him relax.
“It’s for real. Scottie’s forming the team because he was rejected from playing on a league team. He’s a good goalie and wants to build a team for the season. You play?”
“I haven’t for a couple years. Before that I played, about six years, as a wing and did pretty good.”
“Why’d you stop?”
He took a deep breath and looked anxious. He should know it was safe to talk to anyone here.
“Once I started identifying as a guy, neither side would take me.” I nodded. I wasn’t expecting this answer, but it was good he knew he could share this with me. “I figured I wouldn’t play again until after my surgery in a few years. But this. Well. Maybe it’s an opportunity.”
“It would be great to get you out there with us. Have you talked to Scottie yet?”
He gave me a questioning look. Maybe he wasn’t used to people not saying something when he revealed his trans status. Maybe he thought I’d go down that path first, but I wanted to engage him on his original question.
“Us? You’re playing?”
“I’m a little old to play in youth league,” I said with a chuckle. “My boyfriend and I are coaching the team once Scottie gets it together.”
This guy was a thinker. His lips were moving slightly, as if he was talking to himself. I watched, not wanting to interrupt his train of thought.
“Sorry,” he finally said after the silence had stretched on. “Just considering the possibilities.”
“‘S okay.” When he didn’t immediately respond, I decided to keep the conversation moving this time. “I’ve seen you around, so how come we two hockey players have never officially met?”
“I didn’t want to bother you.”
“Why would you be a bother?”
He shrugged. “I know I make some people uncomfortable. And, I mean, I know your story. You came out while I was in middle school. I thought it was the coolest thing. I knew at least being gay wouldn’t stop me from playing. You’re sorta like a hero. To me anyway.”
His slight blush suggested he wished he’d skipped that last part.
“I’m honored,” I said, giving a slight nod, “but all I really am is a student, hockey player, regular guy.”
“I think you’re an inspiration to a lot of others, too.”
“I appreciate that,” I said, and tried to redirect the conversation before he made me blush. “So you gonna give the team a go?”
“Will they let me play?”
“I’m sure Scottie will. We’re still looking for people. You’ve got experience and that—”
“Out of practice experience.”
“…And that, as I was saying, is crucial. We can coach and teach anyone, but it would be a challenge to have a team full of new players.”
“Will the league let me play?”
“We’ll have to look at the official league rules,” We sat on one of the nearby benches. “If I had to guess, the rules are going to be vague enough it won’t matter. Honestly, maybe we don’t tell them. If you hadn’t told me I wouldn’t have guessed by your appearance. You’ll be in the same gear as everyone else, so that would make it even harder to tell. I believe there’s a form your parents would need to sign. Will they?”
“Absolutely. They’ll be thrilled I’m playing again.”
“They’ll be okay with you playing with,” I paused for a moment considering my words. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I can’t figure out how else to put it…Boys?”
He laughed, meaning I hadn’t offended him.
“It’s okay. I know what you mean. Certainly a lot of those boys are going to be stronger, bigger than me. But I think I can hold my own.”
“Good. Obviously we don’t want you getting hurt.”
“I can’t believe I’m talking to you,” he suddenly said. “I swear every time I’d come in and you were at the desk, I wanted to come up with a question to ask so I’d have a reason to say something.”
“I’m not scary am I?”
“No, not at all. Like I said, you’re a big deal to me. Your story was inspiring stuff to a thirteen year old trying to figure out who she was. It still means a lot to me now that I’m seventeen and living somewhere in between. The whole be yourself thing stuck with me.”
“You come to games?”
“My dad and I go sometimes. My mom’s not a fan, unless I’m playing. When that happens she’s in the stands shouting louder than anyone.”
“If you want, I’d be happy to have you and your family as my guests for a game. Check out our schedule and let me know a date or two and I’ll make the arrangements.”
“Wow. Thank you so much!”
He smiled big, all the seriousness in his face fading away. He was enthusiastic at times, but serious. I gave him a smile back.
“It was nice to hear you so happy right then. You’ve been pretty serious while we’ve talked so it was good to see a lighter side.”
He smiled again.
“I try to not draw attention to myself because I’m afraid people will see right through me. That’ll go away eventually, and I actually don’t have to be so careful here. Kids at school, though. Sometimes it’s ugly.”
I did one of the things I hate most, start to ask a question, but then stop.
“Whatever you were going to ask you can,” he said with genuine interest. “I won’t be offended.”
“I was going to ask what you’re going through, but that’s really not an appropriate question.”
“You should drop into our group sometime. You volunteer here enough, I bet Dee would let you come.” I looked down and flipped over my I.D. badge. “Actually I work here,” I held it up for him to see. “It’s my work study since I’m majoring in social work. I sat in on a couple of Dee’s groups when I started here, I mostly work with Trevor these days.”
“Cool. I guess you enjoy what you’re doing?”
“Very much. I learn something new every day, no matter what. Even if the day is only at the desk, there’s always something new to see or learn about. I’ll definitely come to one of Dee’s groups. I’d love to learn more. You think you might come to mine?”
“Trevor’s youth group, right?” I nodded. “I’m not sure. I wouldn’t want to disrupt anything there.”
“You could just be another participant. You wouldn’t have to say anything you didn’t want to, although I think it would be great for the people in that group to learn from you.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“And, if you do join the team,” I said, hoping I wouldn’t make him reconsider, “I think you should be upfront with your teammates. Hiding from our team caused some of the issues Alex and I faced. We should try to head that off here. Will you think about that?”
He considered a moment before he nodded. “Sure.”
“Talk to Dee, see what she says.”
“Good idea,” he said, enthusiastically. “I’ll do that. She’s great with that kind of stuff.”
I pulled out my phone to check the time. “I’m afraid I need to go. I need to prep for some appointments. One question before I go.”
“What’s your name?”
“Oh my God. I didn’t introduce myself?” Even through his dark complexion, his skin went bright red. “Oh, man. I’m sorry. TJ,” he said, extending his hand, which I eagerly met.
“Good to meet you, TJ.
Comment below to enter for a chance to win a copy of the Hat Trick Box Set. It include the three full length novels as well as three in-between short stories. (Seriously yall I wish I could enter our own giveaway, this prize is AWESOME)
You need to be 18 years or older to participate. Void where prohibited. Etc.
This giveaway will end on September 3rd, 2017 at 11:59 PM CDT.