Hockey player makes history as first openly trans professional athlete

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

Harrison Browne has become the first openly transgender athlete on a U.S pro sports team.

Browne who is currently playing for the National Women’s Hockey League team, Buffalo Beauts, announced his trans identity publicly this week.

In his debut game following the announcement, the player scored a goal and was over joyed to hear his name across the loudspeaker.

The player spoke about his identity to ESPN: “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,” he said.

“I’m still the same player, I’m still playing in the body that I did last year, I’m still the same exact person. I’m just a different name and different pronouns, that’s it. I’m still Brownie.”

The player began his sporting career after being recruited by the University of Maine. Browne has identified as trans behind closed doors for a few years, with coaches along the way being aware of his identity.

“On the ice, when I put that equipment on, I’m a hockey player. I don’t think about who I’m playing with, I don’t think I’m playing with women. I don’t think I’m in the wrong body,” he said.

“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. If anything, my product on the ice was let loose and I could be myself.”

He planned to medically transition after finishing college but put off the decision when the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) was created.

Browne has postponed his full transition until he’s finished playing in the NWHL and is yet to change his name legally because of issues surrounding visa’s.

The future of his career is uncertain, but the star says he is “not closing the door” on playing in male leagues, depending on how his body changes.

The league is working on a policy to include transgender athletes. Dani Rylan, the NWHL commissioner said: “At the end of the day, Harrison is the same player he was last year. 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.”