Inside the new NWHL transgender policy, setting pro sports precedent

On Tuesday, the National Women’s Hockey League unveiled a ground breaking policy for the inclusion of transgender athletes. This the first professional sport league – male or female – to create a policy specifically for transgender athletes.

The purpose of the policy is outlined as, “The NWHL recognizes all forms of gender expression. Therefore, the NWHL supports athletes choosing to express their gender beyond the binary of female and male. The NWHL will use the eligibility guidelines set out in this policy in order to ensure a fair and level playing field for all participants.”

Written in conjunction with the You Can Play Project (YCP) and National Center for Lesbian Rights (NLCR), the league based the policy on the International Olympic Committee’s revamped guidelines incorporating the ‘latest scientific and legal attitudes’ surrounding transgender athletes. In years prior, the IOC required athletes to have undergone sexual reassignment surgery in order to compete as their self-identified gender. This is no longer the case.

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Harrison Browne on coming out as transgender, dealing with backlash (Puck Daddy Q&A)

Earlier Friday, ESPNW broke the news that Harrison Browne of the Buffalo Beauts will be the first transgender athlete in North American professional team sports. The NWHL opens their second season tonight with the Harrison taking the ice for the first time as his true self.

His journey began a few weeks ago when he asked NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan for permission to change his name from Hailey to Harrison and all pronouns associated from ‘she’ to ‘he.’ The league was happy to oblige. The next step was to go public.

We had the chance to chat with Harrison shortly after the announcement. His openness, hope and courage is something we can all learn from.

PUCK DADDY: When did this start circulating through your mind? And when did you finally say, and what made you say, ‘Ok, I’m going to ask [NWHL commissioner] Dani Rylan if I can do this because it feels right to me?’

HARRISON BROWNE: There was always a nagging feeling whenever I’d be addressed as my previous name ‘Hailey.’ Also when I’d read articles on the game play [that] say, ‘Oh, she had a great game. She scored this many points.’ It didn’t sit well.

In my private life I’ve been known as ‘he’ and ‘Harrison.’ It just came to a point where I was kind of like, well, I have this…status, and I was thinking I was kind of living a little bit of a lie; I have a mask on to the public. I just thought it was time to align those two.

I saw an article on Chris Mosier in [ESPN] the Body Issue and he said that he was trans. He had a medical transition, but he’s saying that you can play the sport you love and still be authentic to who you are. I saw that this summer and it really set the wheels in motion for me to try to align my life, without the physical transition, and that’s why I decided to contact Dani to just do the minor thing like change my name and change my pronouns because that’s all I can do right now. That’s why I decided.

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