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Olympic gold medalist Ellia Green says speaking about being trans gives him joy

The former rugby sevens player, part of the victorious Australia team from Rio 2016, talks to the BBC LGBT Sport Podcast about freedom and fatherhood.

Ellia Green pictured with daughter Tutu
@elliagreen on Instagram

It’s been nearly 18 months since Ellia Green made history as the first former Olympian to come out as a trans man.

The wing helped Australia claim rugby sevens gold at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games and silver at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast two years later, but was not selected for the women’s tournament at the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games in summer 2021.

In a new interview for the BBC LGBT Sport Podcast, Green — who uses he/him and they/them pronouns — talks to host Jack Murley about the blow of being dropped from the squad for the Tokyo Olympics.

At the time, it was the view of Australia coach John Manenti that, although had Green had recovered from a knee injury, he had lost pace. The team would ultimately fail to retain its title, losing in the quarterfinals to Fiji.

Green says he was “heartbroken” not to be selected and felt that he had let down not just himself and the team but also his mother, who had died in 2018 after a long battle with cancer.

“It took me a long time to recover from that,” he tells Murley.

“It was more so disappointment in myself, I didn’t take that kind of failure well at all.

“I had such a high expectation on myself and I think that after that, it was just about finding myself after such a huge part of my career had come to an end.”

Also on the podcast, Green explains how his intention had been to compete in Tokyo and to then begin his transition.

“From a long time before, I had already been planning my surgery.

“The plan didn’t work out in terms of making it to Tokyo, but I knew that I had this to really look forward to. I knew it was going to be the most liberating feeling that I’d ever felt.”

Naturally, there was intense anxiety about what the reactions of his close family and friends might be. However, Green adds: “When I had time on my own, thinking about my surgery and having this next part of my life to look forward to was pure joy, pure happiness, excitement.”

Green would eventually come out publicly as trans in August 2022 via the platform of the Bingham Cup, the ‘World Cup of LGBTQ rugby union’ run by International Gay Rugby.

In a video that was first shown to attendees at the tournament’s Summit event in Ottawa, Green describes how he conquered his fears before encouraging viewers to “live the rest of your life exactly as you want to be”.

He will turn 31 next month and can often be found on Instagram sharing images of precious moments with partner Vanessa and his daughter Tutu. Green’s bio mentions his work as a speaker on diversity and inclusion, as well as ambassadorial roles.

“Speaking so openly about something that’s so close to me and so private… as much as it gave me so much anxiety, it also gave me a lot of happiness,” he adds on the podcast.

“I’m sure there are many other people out there that have similar anxieties about going through this process. And I knew if I had this opportunity to speak about something so openly, it could impact someone else’s life.”

He continues: “I would never take that lightly, for something that gave me so much joy, to share my story with others.

“To say, ‘I’ve been a professional athlete for this amount of time and I can also do this and I can also now be a dad’...

“These are things that I never thought were possible for me so I’m very happy about sharing that journey.”

On the episode, Green also talks about his childhood, how he got into playing rugby, the Rio 2016 Games and his new role as a father.

The interview is the latest in the BBC LGBT Sport Podcast series which dates back to 2018.

There are over 300 episodes in the back catalogue including Murley’s in-depth conversations with former NFL star Ryan O’Callaghan (September 2023), Olympic silver medalist Gus Kenworthy (June 2023) and Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler (September 2021), to name just a few of his guests.