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Laurel Hubbard fails to medal but is still facing anti-trans attacks

Laurel Hubbard
Laurel HubbardPhoto: YouTube screenshot/Radio New Zealand

Laurel Hubbard became the first trans woman to compete at the Olympics this weekend by participating in the Olympic women’s 78kg+ weightlifting competition.

She failed to medal, only successfully lifting and holding 1 of the 3 weights. Still, her participation has been historic.

Related: Soccer player Quinn becomes first out trans athlete to win a medal at the Olympics

Hubbard became the first transgender athlete to ever qualify for the Olympics in 2019, and was selected by New Zealand’s Olympic committee to the women’s weightlifting team. That made her one of four trans Olympians that made the trip to Tokyo, including Canadian soccer player Quinn, American skateboarder Alana Smith, and American BMX competitor Chelsea Wolfe, as an alternate.

Right before the competition, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) fended off several requests to remove her from the Games despite qualifying. The IOC refused to.

Her participation has continued to be polarizing, however. At least one Olympian, swimmer James Guy of the United Kingdom, is under fire for transphobic remarks he made about Hubbard.

Resharing a report from Reuters after Hubbard was named to New Zealand’s Olympic team, Guy responded to the news by saying, “How’s that fair,” adding that they should “put me in the women’s 100 fly then.”

Team Great Britain nor Guy, who won three medals at the Games, have responded to the growing controversy — and the tweet remains up. In fact, Guy has it pinned.

Other athletes at the Games have also declined to say anything positive about Hubbard’s participation there.

Hubbard’s participation, nonetheless, was both historic and inspiring. 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 International Weightlifting Federation (IWF).

Hubbard started her transition in 2012 after having previously competed in men’s categories. She came back to competitive lifting in 2017, two years after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed its rules to allow trans women to compete if they have been on hormone replacement therapy for 12 months and have a low level of testosterone.

Hubbard said, though, that she would have qualified under the previous, more stringent IOC rules set in 2003.

Hubbard, who largely avoids the press and social media, spoke at a presser after the competition.

“I’m just so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to come here and be me,” she said.

While happy to compete as her authentic self, Hubbard is mindful of the impact this has on other trans athletes.

“I don’t think it should be historical,” Hubbard said, “I think as we move into a, sort of new and more understanding world, people like me are just people, we’re just human.

“I hope by just being here, that will be enough,” she added.

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