Although anti-trans advocates try to push the notion that trans athletes are ruining sports and only transition to gain an advantage in competition, a trans athlete has yet to make it to an Olympic Games.
That is set to change this year with the upcoming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. A record number of trans athletes are trying out across the world to make the trip next month — there are two trans athletes likely to represent the United States in Tokyo, and Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand has already punched her ticket.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) set guidelines in 2003 that have made it possible for trans athletes to participate in Olympic events since 2004. Their initial guidelines were stringent, requiring gender-affirming surgery, legal recognition, and years of hormone therapy to compete as their gender. These rules also made it virtually impossible for intersex athletes to qualify.
The IOC relaxed the guidelines in 2015, recognizing that trans people in a majority of the world still have limited rights, or access to, legal recognition or gender-affirming care. New rules allow trans men to participate in Olympic events “without restriction” and trans women to commit to competing as their gender for four years as well as maintain a low testosterone level.
Despite this, there had yet to be an out trans athlete on any Olympic team. Chris Mosier, an American triathlete and trans man credited for catalyzing the IOC’s new guidelines, tried out for the 2020 team but did not finish the trial due to a knee injury.
That changed this weekend. Laurel Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, became the first trans athlete confirmed to a spot on an Olympic team for next month.
“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes,” Kereyn Smith, the CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, announced with her selection to the team.
Hubbard has previously medaled at the 2017 World Weightlifting Championships and at the 2019 Pacific Games in the heaviest categories of weightlifting, and soon she will be competing at the Olympics in Tokyo.
Hubbard would also be the oldest lifter at the Tokyo games at age 43. She suffered a major injury at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia but came back to win the gold at the Pacific Games the next year. She’s currently ranked 16th in the world in women’s weightlifting, and several people ranked above her won’t be at the Olympics because the number of athletes each country can send is being limited due to COVID-19 by the IWF.
Hubbard’s already not alone. Chelsea Wolfe, who qualified earlier this month, was confirmed as an inaugural member of the United States’ BMX freestyle team last week as well. She is a reserve member, and will only compete if one of the other two selected women is sidelined for some reason.
This will be the first time that BMX freestyling is being staged at the Olympics.
“I’m so excited and honored to keep working so I’m ready to shred in Tokyo in case I’m needed,” Wolfe said on Instagram. “Huge congratulations to [Hannah Roberts] and [Perris Benegas] for being named as the competition riders and I can’t wait to watch y’all crush it in the games.
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Team USA may have another trans woman qualify to join their Olympic Squad, but her status is up in the air.
Outsports reported that track and field athlete CeCé Telfer had initially received an “accepted” and “declared” status for the ongoing Olympic trials. Her status has since become “not qualified.”
Telfer was scheduled to participate in a trial on June 25, 2021, but that’s now depending on whether USA Track & Field officials deem her best professional time fast enough to qualify or not. If she’s allowed to participate, she could earn a spot this week among those competing for an Olympic medal in the 400-meter hurdles.
“Regardless of whether she races at trials or ultimately makes the Olympic team… Telfer has changed the future of athletics,” wrote Marie Claire. “She’s one of a handful of openly transgender Olympic hopefuls whose journey serves as a source of inspiration for other aspiring athletes.”
At least five other out trans athletes have competed for a trip to the Games, a record number according to them.
Nikki Hiltz, a non-binary track athlete and mid-distance runner, competed yesterday for a spot on the United States’ 1500 meter sprint squad — but did not qualify.
Nikki Hiltz did not qualify in the 1500m. Hell of an athlete, hell of a story though.
— Britni de la Cretaz (@britnidlc) June 22, 2021
Ness Murby, a javelin and discus thrower from Canada, has previously taken part in the Olympics but came out publicly as genderqueer in November. Murby, who uses he/him pronouns, is also blind and could simultaneously become the first out trans Paralympic competitor in history.
“Everyone should feel like there is space for them in this world,” he said while coming out, “You are enough, we are enough, there is enough space for all of us.” He has also congratulated Hubbard on her milestone on Twitter.
Laurel Hubbard becoming the first out #trans athlete to compete in the Olympics matters & will be profoundly significant. Laurel’s met all the req criteria, her #inclusion’s a symbol of our existence & perseverance — there’s enough space for all of us
I’m proud of & stand w/ her
— Ness Murby (he/him) (@NessMurby) June 22, 2021
Quinn, a soccer star who came out as transgender in September, is expected to remain a member of the Canadian national women’s team. They have played for their country since 2013 and earned a bronze medal with the 2016 team.
They currently play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) on the OL Reign — the same team where Megan Rapinoe plays. Their coming out inspired international soccer player Kumi Yokoyama to come out as a trans man just this weekend.
Yokoyama, played for Japan’s national women’s soccer team from 2015 to 2019, but was not named to Japan’s Olympics roster. He currently plays for the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.
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Tiffanny Abreu of Brazil is also vying to make the national roster in volleyball. A selection committee determines the squad for the country, which has the highest rate of violence against trans people. An estimated one trans person was murdered every two days in 2020.
Abreu is also an active political voice in the country and was included in Queerty‘s Pride50 list of honorees in 2020.
Sprinter Valentina Petrillo is hoping to represent Italy in one of multiple dash races, but her selection is also subject to a committee. Being visually impaired and a previous Paralympic qualifying athlete, Petrillo could also join Murby as possibly breaking ground at the Paralympics in a few weeks.
She told the BBC that her new motto since coming out is “Better to be a slow happy woman than a fast unhappy man.”