Earlier this year Harrison Browne ended his hockey career on top. He and his Buffalo Beauts team completed a fairytale season by capturing the National Women’s Hockey League championship, upsetting the Boston Pride in the final. Looking to continue his transition, Browne announced his retirement from the sport.

Yet the idea of walking away from the sport he loved didn’t sit well with Browne. Beyond that, he had become a beacon of hope for other transgender athletes. As the highest-profile transgender team-sport professional athlete in the United States, if not the world, Browne’s participation in the NWHL meant something bigger than himself.

So Browne announced he would put his transition on hold, making a personal sacrifice to continue as an example and a trailblazer for other trans athletes looking for inspiration.

“It was not an easy decision,” Browne told Outsports, “but I feel that I still have more to give as an athlete especially an athlete of the LGBTQ community.”

For his willingness to be out and proud, and for his personal sacrifice for the betterment of the whole community, Harrison Browne is one of Outsports’ Male Heroes of the Year.

Over a thousand miles away from Browne, Mack Beggs was waging his own battles. The high school wrestler in Texas had wanted to compete against the boys this year since he is, well, a boy.

Yet backward Texas rules demand that athletes compete as their sex assigned at birth, not their gender, unless they clear unreasonable hurdles that include sex-reassignment surgery. They are also mandated to change their official government identification despite most judges in Texas making it impossible to do so.

So Beggs, who has been transitioning for a while, was forced by the state to compete against girls. He could have given up on his sport entirely, but competing was simply too important to him. As we know, sports are often key to the mental health and well-being of many transgender youth.

Beggs faced a mountain of backlash in Texas, with people saying it was unfair that this boy would compete against girls. Yes, the very same people who said he wasn’t allowed to compete against the boys were the same people saying he shouldn’t compete against girls, either. Beggs’ very presence and persistence exposed the hypocrisy and true intentions of those who stand in the way of transgender athletes.

Beggs didn’t back down. He faced every competitor on the mat and won a state title.

For his persistence, fortitude and championship-level performance, Mack Beggs is our other Male Hero of the Year.

Various other men in sports stood out this year for advancing the cause of acceptance:

  • Chris Voth: The volleyball player lost a contract after coming out then got his entire team to march in a pride parade.
  • Scott Frantz: The Kansas State offensive lineman was the first publicly out gay man to play in an FBS football game and a bowl game.
  • My-King Johnson: The Univ. of Arizona defensive end has been out since he was 12, totally accepted by his high school team. His story opened eyes about acceptance in big-time football.
  • Erik Braverman: The openly gay Los Angeles Dodgers executive has built pro sports’ biggest LGBT Pride Night and is a valuable resource for pro teams in all sports.

Previous Outsports Male Hero Of The Year winners:

2016: Amini Fonua
2015: Billy Bean
2014: Conner Mertens