Harrison Browne, a forward for the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women’s Hockey League, has publicly announced he is transgender, becoming the first athlete in professional team sports to do so as an active player.
“I’m making official what has been part of my life for a few years now,” he wrote on SB Nation’s The Ice Garden blog. “I’m Harrison. I’m a ’he.’ As in ’Harrison Browne made a good pass for the primary assist on that goal by the Beauts.” Or ’He really lost his check on that one,’ haha.”
“My family is starting to come to grips with it,” he told ESPN, en route to team practice before today’s season opener. “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.”
Last season, the Beauts made it to the NWHL championships, and the hope is this year they can claim the top spot. Browne says coming out as trans has only helped his game.
“I felt more comfortable having my friends call me what I wanted to be called, referring to me with the pronouns that I wanted,” he explains. “If anything, my product on the ice was let loose and I could be myself.”
The league is fairly new—it was only created 2015, when Browne was a senior in college. He acknowledges he’s in a unique position as a trans man on a women’s team, but insists “you have to be your authentic self to be happy… [and] hockey makes me extremely happy.”
Browne is postponing medical transition until he’s done playing in the NWHL, and says he’s “not closing the door” to transferring to a men’s team later.
It’s not clear if he’s taking hormone therapy, like testosterone, but for now, NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan says the league is accepting of a transgender man in the league.
“At the end of the day, Harrison is the same player he was last year,” said Rylan (above right). “We’re here to support him. It’s really not a big deal when you look at it, we’re respecting his name, the pronouns and his request to be his authentic self.”
The Beauts are accepting, as well: “Support has been a major thread of our team unity and success,” says team GM Ric Seiling. “And that goes beyond the rink.”