Sports | September 27, 2017 5:36 pm

Transgender Hockey Player Postpones Hormone Treatment to Keep Playing

Harrison Browne originally retired last year to undergo hormone therapy.

At the end of last season, Harrison Browne retired from the National Women’s Hockey League at the age of 23 in order to undergo hormone therapy and surgery as part of his physical gender transition, reports NPRBut then, Browne, a transgender man, decided to delay his medical transition to sign with the New York Riveters and play another season with the NWHL.

There is no rule in the league that every player must identify as female, but they are not allowed to use hormone therapy if they are transgender men, which is a person who is designated female at birth but identifies as male, NPR reports.

NPR writes that Browne’s decision, made in a society grappling with new norms of gender identity, brings to the light the blurred line between male and female in the sports universe.

Browne went to the NWHL before the 2016 season began, explaining that he was transgender and wanted to go by male pronouns and the name Harrison Browne. NPR writes that this is called “socially transitioning,” “in which transgender people begin to express their true gender identity with others.” The rules would not prevent Browne from playing, but it did raise some questions within the women’s league.

So the NWHL adopted the first policy addressing the inclusion of transgender players in a professional sports league. These new rules decree that a transgender man can play as long as they are not undergoing testosterone therapy and a transgender woman can play if they have declared a female gender identity and have testosterone levels “within typical limits of women athletes,” according to NPR. 

Non-professional leagues followed suit and adopted policies about including transgender players as well, like the International Olympic Committee and the NCAA.

A post shared by Harrison Browne (@hbrowne24) on

“For myself, being stuck in the binary of men’s and women’s sports is not ideal,” Browne said, according to NPR. “But I’m lucky enough to be part of a league that accepts me and wants me to feel as comfortable as I can. This is the first trans policy in professional sports, that’s huge.”

Historically, sports have been separated by men and women because of the “presumption that women were too weak to physically exert themselves,” writes NPR. Now, they are separated for the sake of competition, because men and women are different sizes and perform athletic competitions differently.

Men have about 10 times the amount of testosterone as the average woman, which explains the size difference between the sexes. The hormone is responsible for beards, deep voices, muscle mass and strength, explains NPR. It has also been long considered an illegal doping substance in most sports leagues, but it is the hormone a transgender man takes to undergo hormone therapy during a physical transition. Therefore, a transgender male athlete who decides to use hormone therapy could risk expulsion or face accusations of exploiting an unfair advantage.

A post shared by Harrison Browne (@hbrowne24) on

Transgender athletes have been trying to find their place in the sports world for years. There is no easy solution, but Browne’s decision “shows how even the most gender-segregated arenas are attempting to make room for varied gender identities,” writes NPR.