Hockey Player Harrison Browne has become the first openly transgender athlete in American professional team sports.
The National Women’s Hockey League was established in 2015 and the 23-year-old Browne, nicknamed “Brownie,” has played for the Buffalo Beauts since the league was started. He has been out to his coaches and friends in his private life, however he felt it was time he was addressed by the correct name and pronouns publicly as he begins the 2016-2017 season.
“…now it’s my time to be known as who I am, to be authentic and to hear my name said right..”
“I identify as a man,” Browne told ESPN in New York, “My family is starting to come to grips with it, now it’s my time to be known as who I am, to be authentic and to hear my name said right when I get a point or see my name on a website.” Beauts coach Ric Seiling, a former NHL player, said that nothing will change regarding his approach toward Harrison, noting he has always referred to him as “Brownie.”
Browne is a former junior circuit player from Canada and was recruited by the University of Maine to play Division I hockey on a scholarship. He graduated in 2014. Browne has acknowledged he feels like he is he is in “limbo” as a transgender man on a women’s team, but “you have to be your authentic self to be happy … hockey makes me extremely happy,” he said. Browne has decided to postpone a medical transition until he’s done playing in the NWHL and he will not change his legal name right now for visa reasons.
“It felt like the stars were aligning for Harrison,” NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan told the New York Post. “I don’t know if it would’ve been as easy for him five years ago.” Rylan has said she fully supports Browne’s decision to be public about his gender identity and that she hopes he can play a role in educating others. She is also working on creating a new policy for transgender players because the league currently does not have one. “I think what Harrison has done for so many will make it more acceptable and allow others to feel comfortable,” she said while also making it clear that the league sees no issue with a transgender male on a team’s roster.
“I’m still the same player, I’m still playing in the body that I did last year,’ said Browne. “I’m still the same exact person. I’m just a different name and different pronouns, that’s it. I’m still Brownie.”