First Professional Transgender Player Not Quite Ready to Hang Up the Skates

Last October, Harrison Browne, formerly known as Hailey Browne, became the first openly transgender athlete to compete in a professional North American team sport. For the past two seasons, Browne has played in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) for the Buffalo Beauts. Two seasons ago, in the NWHL’s inaugural season, Browne scored 12 points and tied for the team lead in penalty minutes. Last season, Browne was part of a surprising Beauts championship season, where they beat the Boston Pride 3-2.

After the championship game, Browne released a YouTube video where he detailed his decision to retire. Browne stated that he needed to start to focus on his transition, and at the time stated that he “just simply can’t really go on. I get misgendered all the time, and that’s not something that I want in this stage in my life.”

Last December, the NWHL announced a transgender policy that outlined the league’s support for players who choose to express their gender beyond the binary female and male. However, their rules bar athletes transitioning from female to male from taking testosterone hormone therapy.

Browne’s retirement did not last for long. On Monday, August 7, 2017, he announced that he would sign a contract to play for the New York Riveters in 2017-18. Browne stated that he was not ready to retire from the game he loved, and that he wanted “to remain as visible as possible for any LGBTQ youth who may view [him] as a positive role model.”

Browne told ESPNW that he planned to undergo gender reassignment surgery after he concluded his college career on the University of Maine women’s hockey team. However, then the formation of the NWHL was announced, and those plans were placed on hold. Browne later told ESPNW that he’s felt like he’s been in “limbo” since. Browne has not undergone any surgeries or hormone therapy as of yet.

Browne, nicknamed “Brownie” by her teammates, says that he has received a lot of positive feedback on YouTube. He also would not state definitively whether he would return for one more season, only proclaiming that he is “looking forward to seeing the success [he] can have on the ice.”

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