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First out trans male hockey player Harrison Browne: Day of Transgender Visibility shows better times are ahead

While it feels strange to celebrate anything during a pandemic, Browne says International Day of Transgender Visibility highlights the power of perseverance.

Harrison Browne says International Transgender Day of Visibility is a time to remember better days are ahead.
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It seems strange to celebrate anything in the midst of a pandemic. But to Harrison Browne, this year’s International Day of Transgender Visibility represents an opportunity to escape from our current dystopia, and recognize better times are ahead.

Monday was the International Transgender Day of Visibility, which is held every year on March 31. It is a day to show support for the trans community and bring attention to the accomplishments of trans people across the world, according to Trans Student Educational Resources. This year’s theme is “surviving, thriving,” which acknowledges the major transgender achievements on the world stage over the last year — to persisting in the Trump era and increasing visibility across popular culture.

The latter accomplishment — increasing visibility — is one of the main reasons why Browne decided to make the switch from hockey to full-time acting. After hanging up his skates in April 2018, Browne, who was the first out transgender man in professional team sports and won back-to-back championships in the National Women’s Hockey League, decided to pursue acting in his hometown of Toronto. Growing up, Browne says he lacked transgender role models, and wasn’t even aware of the term until he was 14 years old. As an actor, he wants to bring the full trans experience onto the stage with him, showing young trans kids it is possible to live a complete life.

But for the time being, Browne is in quarantine, along with the rest of us. To stay sane, he says he’s taking the day to reflect on his accomplishments, and plan for future triumphs.

“It’s interesting to feel like you’re celebrating while the world is going through this, so it definitely has a different feel from all of the Days of Trans Visibility that I’ve participated in,” he said to Outsports in a phone call. “But I think it’s a day where we can escape from what we’re going through right now and celebrating all of the things we’ve been able to accomplish, and just looking back at those kinds of things. I think that’s really important. And also, looking for plans in the future, because it’s not always going to be like this. It’s important for me to just stay visible in the industry.”

Fortunately for Browne, he was able to finish his play, “A Nice Day In The Park,” where he plays a young transgender man who works for an AIDS service organization. He also finished filming his first cisgender movie role March 14, just days before non-essential businesses were closed in his city.

While Browne is learning how to conduct self-auditions during the industry’s coronavirus-induced pause, he says he’s trying to exercise patience, and understands most people’s professional ambitions are currently on hold at the moment.

For Outsports readers who are anxious about the uncertainty — and frankly, who among us isn’t? — Browne says it’s helpful to remember what you can and cannot control.

“The only way to really stay positive is just control what you can control,” Browne said. “There’s this saying of ‘walking around with an umbrella waiting for rain.’ Any stress that you’re carrying is not going to change anything. It’s not helping you. Obviously, there are times when the mindset gets to me, and I have moments where I’m frustrated or angry and I make myself feel bad, but then I get back to just controlling what you can control. I’ve been going out for drives and listening to music — not going outside and putting myself at risk or anybody else at risk, but doing little things to just get back to that normalcy. So just take the time and do something for yourself.”

Since coming out as trans in 2016, Browne says he’s experienced great joy on Transgender Day of Visibility. But he says the day’s sentiments should make everyone in the community feel proud. It is a message that trans people aren’t alone, even in the most isolating of times.

“I think this day could be looked at in one of two ways. For somebody like me who’s out and visible and proud, it’s a day to look back with pride,” Browne said. “But I think there’s some shame that’s also with it for people who feel like because it’s visibility, because it’s being seen, the fact that they aren’t looking at themselves they way they want to see themselves, they don’t think they’re included in this day. It’s very important when transgender visibility day came around and I wasn’t out, I wasn’t physically transitioned, it was still a very great day for me and it was still a valid day for me. So I think it’s very important to uplift everybody regardless of what step you are in with the transition.”