Harrison Browne, forward for the Buffalo Beauts, recently became the first openly transgender player in the NWHL. He will be playing with the full support of the league in the coming season.

During an interview with espnW’s Michelle Steele, 23-year-old Browne said he was officially identifying as a male transgender athlete. In the past, the NWHL has helped create iconic female players; however, this is the first progress made for transgender men in the sport.

In fact, once Harrison plays his first game, he will be the first transgender sports figure playing on any professional American sports team. Browne told Michelle Steele that his, “Family is starting to come to grips with it.” He further stated, “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 says he won’t be physically transitioning, though he had originally planned to do so after college. He decided against it rather than postpone his chance of becoming an NWHL player. Currently, he plans to transition once his NWHL career is over.

After a year of playing as a rookie and scoring five goals along with 12 points in 18 games, Harrison Browne is not new to the sport. Before joining the NWHL, Browne played for Team Canada’s Under-18 squad, for the NCAA’s Mercyhurst University, and the University of Maine. While at the University of Maine, Browne took his first steps towards transitioning — he identified as a man privately while playing with the Black Bears and claimed this helped with his early career success.

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

For its part, the NWHL has been supportive of Browne’s gender identity. Dani Rylan, the NWHL’s commissioner, said Harrison is “the same player he was last year,” asserting that the league would continue supporting him in every way. The league changed Browne’s player profile to reflect his name, and the commissioner says it plans to alter its policy. Rylan told Steele, “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.”

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