Harrison Browne is a second year forward with the Buffalo Beauts in the National Women's Hockey League. Born a girl, the 23-year-old revealed in October to ESPN that he identifies as a man.
7 Eyewitness Sports Reporter Nick Filipowski sat down with Harrison to discuss his story and the impact it's had off the ice.
Harrison Browne: "When I put on my skates, when I put on my helmet I'm just 'Brownie.' There's no gender roles in sports. We're all just a team, we're all just hockey players."
Nick Filipowski: How much of a whirlwind has the last few weeks been? What has the last year of your life been? Has it been it been a weight off your shoulders - has it been liberating?
Harrison Browne: "I think the words you just said it's been liberating, freeing, and that's just how it feels."
Through high school, collegiately at Maine and professional -- in every publication -- the 23-year-old was listed as Hailey. Until this year.
"I think the most rewarding aspect is being referred to as Harrison."
Harrison, born a girl, identifies as a man and is believed to be the first openly transgender athlete to play professional sports in North America.
"I went to an all-girls school from kindergarten to grade seven so I didn't recognize the segregation between the genders because I had always been around women. I didn't realize there was another part out there until I went to a co-ed school that's when I don't like the role I was in, I didn't feel like I belonged with the girls, on the girls teams in the locker room. I didn't like things like that. That was about when I was 14 and that's when I felt uncomfortable with the body that I was in."
The Ontario native came out to his teammates and close friends during his sophomore season with the Black Bears and many of his current teammates with the Beauts, through college or internationally play, knew Harrison.
Now on his new path, Harrison is looked to a beacon of strength to the transgender community.
And as we sat and talked for an hour about his career and the NWHL, messages of thanks flooded his inbox, like this one from an athlete:
"Hi! I hope you're having a great day. I just wanted to say I really appreciate you for being openly trans and on a sports team, because I am Trans and on a sports team! I really just wanted to say that you've been such an inspiration to me. I really feel like I can do anything, seeing you play! I'm just really happy knowing trans people exist and are out there achieving their dreams. Best."
And another from a father of two:
"My generation of parents is learning to teach our kids acceptance and inclusion. Every time we hear about incidents about exclusion and discrimination my son doesn't get it. He doesn't understand what the big deal is. We are teaching him about the past and about the bright future that he can have by being inclusive of all people. Thank you for being you. You are loved. A modern day parent."
NF: What does it mean to you, knowing that when you're on the ice there is maybe a young boy or young girl out there, who sees you and knows your story and feels like they can come out now and be who they truly are?
HB: "It's awesome. I had a fan, in the away rink they had a sign they actually threw me a bracelet from the crowd, it had the Trans colors, pink blue and white and they threw me a bracelet. I'm going to wear that every game. The fact that they support me is amazing."
"He's very energetic, very caring, hard-working. Loves hockey -- it's his life," teammate Devon Skeats said. "He's played ever since he was little. He's a great person to be around, makes you laugh. Great energy. He's just a great person."
"It's been Brownie, and it's always been Brownie to me," Head Coach Ric Seiling said.
"The joke now between Harrison and myself is when I call you Harrison on the bench, you know I'm a little upset with you from what you're playing looks like. I say sometimes before each game and sometimes between each period, don't make me call you Harrison."
"Family is a huge thing is sports," he said. "I feel very much respected and very much cared for and calling by a nickname, it's always like a term of endearment. They're all my family and all my friends."
"I feel great that I have the ability to be a pioneer but right now, I'm a hockey player. Right now, I'm a person. Always will be a regular person," Harrison said. "I'm just doing life the way I want to do it to make myself happy and if I can inspire other people to live authentically, that's great."
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