It’s been more than three years since trailblazing transgender hockey player Harrison Browne laced up his skates and played in a competitive game. And now he’s itching to get back on the ice, fears be damned.
Earlier this week, Browne, who is the first publicly out trans pro hockey player in America and won two championships in the PHF, posted a message on Twitter about his ever-changing relationship with the sport he loves. After retiring, Browne started physically transitioning, a process that is now complete.
While Brown is in a great personal place — he’s now a working actor and played a transgender character in an episode of the Hulu series, “The Last Man,” — his physical changes have paused his ambitions to play again.
For starters, Browne, who was a PHF All-Star in 2017, doesn’t know which level would be appropriate for him. He knows he’s not at the NHL level, but at the same time, doesn't want to play against inferior competition.
Then there’s the locker room. It’s common practice for male hockey players to shower in one big stall after games. The prospect of doing that makes Browne uncomfortable.
“There is something about hockey and the dressing room that does hold me back, and that’s the showering situation,” he said. “There’s a lot of nudity in hockey. It’s hard to explain.”
But Browne is trying. He’s been public about every step of his transition, posting selfies and even bragging about cutting himself while shaving (a right of passage for any man). His inner-dialogue about whether he wants to come back and play the sport he loves isn’t any different.
Some acting gigs, including a recent commercial for Scotia Bank in Canada that pushes for inclusion in hockey, have rekindled his passion for the game.
“It made me realize how much I really missed being on the ice, and the last couple of months I’ve been jonesing to get back on the ice,” he said.
The PHF, Browne’s old league, announced last week a comprehensive transgender and nonbinary inclusion policy. It says transgender women are eligible to play if they’ve been living in their transgender identity for a minimum of two years, and trans men can play as well, provided they obtain a therapeutic use exemption if they are taking testosterone.
“People wondered why I was immediately eliminated from playing in that league just because I had a shot of testosterone. I didn’t really have an answer for that,” Browne said. “It’s really cool to see there is some inclusion of trans men within that league that are on hormone-replacement therapy. It’s really great to have those conversations.”
As for Browne, he’s going to continue to have conversations with those closest to him about a potential return to the ice. The first step will come Nov. 11, when he plays in the Eric Lindros Celebrity Hockey Classic. The game is raising money for Easter Seals, an organization that helps kids with physical disabilities attend summer camp and participate in other recreational activities.
One thing is for sure: Browne doesn’t want to let fear determine his path.
“I don’t want to not do something out of fear,” he said. “Why should I feel like I’m not included in this sport that I’ve given my life to, that I’ve made a lot of accomplishments in. Why should I not do something I want to do?”