NWHL's Harrison Browne is first transgender athlete in pro team sports

(Photo via Troy Parla)
(Photo via Troy Parla)

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.

Browne, who formerly identified as Hailey Browne, is now listed as Harrison Browne on the NWHL website. According to an NWHL official, he has informed the League that he won’t undergo gender reassignment surgery until after retiring as a pro hockey player. He will also not take any testosterone supplements while playing because it violates performance-enhancing drug policies for the League.

“I identify as a man,” Browne said in an interview with ESPNW’s Michele Steele. “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.”

Browne told Yahoo Sports that his teammates at the University of Maine and in the NWHL have referred to him as “Harrison” during his playing career.

Browne, a 23-year-old native of Oakville, Ontario, played one season for Mercyhurst University before moving over to the University of Maine, playing three seasons with the Black Bears. Brown played on the Canada 2011 IIHF World Women’s Under-18 team, winning a silver medal.

“At the end of the day, Harrison is the same player he was last year,” NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan told ESPNW. “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.”

In the NWHL’s inaugural season of 2015-16, Browne had five goals and seven assists in 18 regular-season games, and four points in five playoff games.


Browne’s revelation follows several other landmark moments for transgender athletes in recent years.

In March 2013, Fallon Fox became the first transgender female athlete to compete in MMA – at least “on the record,” as Sports Illustrated put it. Fox had gender reassignment surgery beginning in 2006.

In 2015, Chris Mosier became the first athlete to qualify for a national team different from his gender assigned at birth. The triathlete had previously competed as a woman before starting his transition in 2010. Mosier posed in the ESPN Body Issue in 2016.

The NWHL is the first women’s professional sports league to partner with You Can Play, an advocacy organization for LGBT athletes.

“The NWHL is committed to promoting LGBT equality and the respect of all of our athletes, fans, coaches, and staff. Alongside the NHL, AHL, and CWHL, the hockey community can proudly say we are the most inclusive professional sport in the world,” NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan said.

Additional reporting by Jen Neale, Yahoo Sports