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NWHL’s Harrison Browne makes history as hockey’s first openly transgender player

With the support of the NWHL, Buffalo Beauts forward Harrison Browne has come out as transgender and will suit up for the team again this coming season.
NWHL/Troy Parla

NWHL/Troy Parla

The NWHL has helped create icons for women’s hockey players, and this season Buffalo Beauts forward Harrison Browne will be doing the same for transgender athletes everywhere. 

Browne, 23, announced in an interview with ESPNW’s Michelle Steele that he is a transgender athlete and identifies as a man. He is the first openly transgender player in American professional team sports.

"My family is starting to come to grips with it,” Browne told Steele. “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.”

Browne won’t be undergoing any physical changes, however. He told Steele that he had originally planned to undergo a medical transition after college, but the chance to play in the NWHL led to the postponement of the transition. Now, he’ll wait until his playing career in the NWHL is through.

Having played in the league last season, a rookie campaign in which he scored five goals and 12 points in 18 games, Browne’s not a new face in the NWHL. Before making his way to the NWHL, Browne suited up for Team Canada’s Under-18 squad, as well as the NCAA’s Mercyhurst University and University of Maine, and it was during his time at Maine that Browne took the first step towards being himself. 

While playing for the Black Bears, he privately identified himself to coaches, and that led to him having the most success early in his career.

"Off the ice, I felt more comfortable having my friends call me what I wanted to be called, referring to me with the pronouns that I wanted,” Browne told Steele. “If anything, my product on the ice was let loose and I could be myself.”

As for the NWHL, the league has been incredibly supportive of Browne. NWHL commissioner Dani Rylan told Steele that Browne is “the same player he was last year,” and said the league will support him in any way possible. The league has already changed his player profile to reflect his name, and Rylan told Steele the league is also working on changes to league policy.

“It's really not a big deal when you look at it,” Rylan told Steele. “We're respecting his name, the pronouns and his request to be his authentic self.”

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