Quinn is Outsports Non-Binary Athlete of the Year for what they’ve done on the pitch, in the community and for what they are about to do, hopefully, in the next Summer Olympic Games.
“I am honoured to be selected as 2020 Non-Binary Athlete of the year!” they told Outsports, upon learning of the award. “It’s been a whirlwind of a year for me since coming out and I’m so appreciative of the support.”
When the Canadian soccer player came out publicly on Instagram in September, two things happened: they joined the growing rank of LGBTQ athletes who identify as both transgender and non-binary. And they had to deal with a ton of deadnaming by both mainstream media as well as LGBTQ media, even Outsports.
We quickly corrected our mistake, while others seemed to miss the point: Quinn sought a clean break from their birthname, and going by Quinn — or their nickname Quinny, and The Quinny5 on social media — was how they did so.
The 25-year-old starting defender for the NWSL’s OL Reign, on loan as a midfielder for the Swedish club Vittsjö GIK, was already out to former teammates on the Canadian Women’s National Team. In addition to playing for Canada in the World Cup, Quinn was also a 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, and has played for the Washington Spirit and Paris FC after playing college soccer at Duke University. The Toronto native was the highest drafted Canadian when the Spirit selected them in 2018.
In their coming out post on Instagram, they issued a challenge to cisgender followers and fans: Be better allies.
A few weeks after coming out, Quinn revealed to NewsChain’s Alicia Turner that there was no single dramatic moment that led to their announcement, declaring that “I didn’t ever feel like there was a right time, but I think I had just gotten to the point where I was so confident in myself and who I was, [while] understanding that there was going to be some pushback and some scrutiny and be able to handle all that.”
In October, they also joined Karleigh Webb and me for an episode of our Outsports podcast, The Trans Sporter Room, during which they revealed that while they’ve had their share of positive interaction with teammates, it’s not been all smooth sailing.
While they characterized the response from their roster mates in Sweden as “overly positive,” Quinn admitted that “From other teams that I’m on, it hasn’t been that way. There have been a couple of players who have had questions or outwardly told me that they didn’t approve or said some really ignorant hurtful things.”
Despite that, Quinn has persevered by keeping their eyes on the goals in front of them. As they told listeners to our podcast, one of the most prominent goals is to play in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics as an openly non-binary transgender athlete, perhaps the first.
“I think it is really exciting to potentially be a trailblazer in that sense. But at the same time, I’m pretty positive that there’s been trans people at the Olympics. They just haven’t been out during their time [there]. And so for me, I think that’s just really exciting that I can be out...It speaks to the places that we’re moving and I hope that there [are] many trans folks that are going to follow me in those steps.”
In a year in which Covid-19 took many athletes off the field or their homecourt, Quinn is one of the few who were able to keep playing, and one of the few who came out while doing so.
Quinn started playing soccer at age 5. According to their biography, they begged to join a house league after their sisters started playing. On their first rep team, they asked the coach how old you had to be to play for Canada.
They made their debut in the Canadian youth program at 14 years old, in 2010, and won a silver medal at the 2012 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. They have represented Canada at two age group FIFA World Cups, the 2012 U-17 and 2014 U-20, making it to the quarterfinals at both events.
Quinn played every minute of every game in Canada’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. They played with the senior team at two Cyprus Cups, winning a silver medal in 2015, and were also part of the Canadian team that won the 2016 Algarve Cup. During the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifier, they scored a hat trick in Canada’s 10-0 win over Guatemala as the team went on to finish second and earn a spot at Rio 2016.
That’s where Quinn made their Olympic debut, and where they helped Canada win that bronze medal. They competed at their first FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019.
In 2020, Quinn played in 10 games, seven of them for Sweden, for a total of 772 minutes.
Next up: the professional season starts Feb. 1, 2021, and later that month the Canadian national team will compete in the “She Believes Cup.”
“There are so many incredible athletes and I’m really excited for trans & non-binary athletes to continue to be celebrated in 2021,” Quinn told Outsports. “Let’s continue to make space for trans & non-binary athletes in sports in the new year!”
Our other honoree
The other nominee, Layshia Clarendon, signed as a free agent for the New York Liberty in February, and came out as transgender non-binary this month, and correctly declared in an Instagram post: “There is indeed no one way to be trans.” The WNBA guard uses she/her/they/them/he/him pronouns interchangeably.
She is the players’ union’s vice president and served on the committee that negotiated the new “queer-inclusive” collective bargaining agreement with the league.
In June, Clarendon was a guest on ESPN’s Sarah Spain’s podcast That’s What She Said, and said they came out not all at once but, “more in little spurts.” She publicly came out in 2013 and was the league’s first gender non-conforming player.
Outsports named them Female Hero of the year in 2015 for embracing her role as an active professional athlete dedicated to supporting other LGBT people in sports. Their social justice work gained new momentum in 2020: As the coronavirus spread in Spring, Clarendon joined the Masks for the People campaign, which seeks to secure protective masks, sanitizers and testing kits to underserved communities. The project is in partnership with the LIVE FREE campaign and Black Church Action Fund. Together, the organizations form a 40-year partnership and network of congregations addressing the issues of systemic racism and exclusion.
Fighting racism and supporting Black Lives Matter is also important to Clarendon. They were a driving force with Sue Bird behind the movement to counter anti-BLM remarks by Atlanta Dream part-owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler by visibly supporting her political rival with T-shirts. And Clarendon organized the national anthem protest on the league’s opening weekend.
In 2020, they recorded a career-high 11.5 points per game over 19 contests, starting in all 19. Clarendon also shot a career-best 87.3% from the free throw line, as well as 46.5% from the field and 34.1% from beyond the arc while adding 3.9 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game.
But their biggest achievement is without a doubt the baby Clarendon and wife Jessica welcomed in 2020. The couple announced the birth on Christmas Day.
Non-binary individuals can be transgender, and transgender individuals can be non-binary. These two athletes represent their identities intersectionally, and have stood up for everyone who does not “fit” into the male/female binary. We’re proud to tell their stories, and grateful for their leadership in building a more inclusive LGBTQ sports community.
Outsports is unveiling the 2020 honorees every day through Wednesday, Dec. 30.