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Harrison Browne and the LGBT sports community breaks its silence

With recent executive orders banning discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, one would think this would propel equality in the sports profession. Well, think again — not all leagues and teams are as equal as we think.

There will always be differing opinions on this issue. One side believes professional sports have helped advance understanding, acceptance and equality while others think that professional sports continue to lag.

The LGBT community has become such a well-known aspect of today’s society that it is hard to not take notice.

Sports have been propagated in American history for decades, and if represented correctly, the athletes can show the best of America. On the field or court, athletes are judged purely on skill and talent — not their sexual orientation or gender identities.

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Since the recent announcement of former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner being a transwoman, people, particularly athletes, are beginning to accept their identities, and on Oct. 8, history was made yet again.

Harrison Browne became the first openly transgender athlete to compete in a professional U.S. sport. The 23-year-old went by the name Hailey Browne before announcing he prefers to be called Harrison and identifies as a man.

“I identify as a man,” Browne told ESPNW. “My family is starting to come to grips with it. Now, it’s my time to be known as who I am, to be authentic and to hear my name said right when I get a point or see my name on a website.”

Browne is a part of the National Women’s Hockey League, playing for the Buffalo Beauts. He has recently re-signed with the Beauts in the offseason.

Browne posted 12 points and tied for the team lead in penalty minutes in the NWHL’s first season.

In an interview with ESPNW, Browne stated that he had planned to undergo sex reassignment surgery after he finished his college career on the University of Maine women’s hockey team.

However, his SRS was halted. The NWHL announced that competing as a man in a women’s league could put the athlete in violation of the NWHL doping policy because of the testosterone treatments.

To some, these rules may seem discriminatory, but the NWHL commissioner, Dani Rylan, told ESPNU that they support him.

“It’s really not a big deal when you look at it,” Rylan said. “We’re respecting his name, the pronouns and his request to be his authentic self.”

Since coming out to the public, Browne said he now feels happy that he can be his “authentic self.”

Stories like this and many others are allowing the professional sports community to become more aware of LGBT athletes.

After the Orlando massacre, many organizations acknowledged the attack on the LGBT community, while some struggled to show condolences.

A Rolling Stone article stated that the MLB held a moment of silence in each of its stadium while the NFL took 12 days to acknowledge the attacks and failed to mention the fact that many of the victims were identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The coming out of players in the NBA and NFL and the views Americans have on the community has kept professional sports commissioners and team owners silent on their stances on LGBT rights.

The advancement of racial equality has been a more notably recognized issue in the sports community, whereas there has been relative silence on LGBT equality. The NBA particularly has been passive on the issue and sees no change in policy.

Yet, through all of the silence, there is history being made, and it is loud and clear.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, history was made yet again, but this history didn’t involve metals. According to a CNN article,  the Human Rights campaign estimated that there were at least 41 openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Olympians.

In the 2012 London Olympics, there were approximately 23 that participated.

There are roughly 9 million LGBT Americans, many of whom support professional sports or play professional sports. Uniquely, through sports, there can be social progress.

Americans love sports, and unifying disconnected people to the central idea of sports is important for future growth and acceptance for the athletes that are also a part of the LGBT community.

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