Laurel Hubbard and Quinn, two trans trailblazers of these Olympics, will step on the stage in Tokyo a few hours apart on Monday
At 5:00pm local time in Kashima City, Japan, Quinn takes the pitch for Canada in a soccer semifinal against the United States. Having started most of Canada’s matches at these Games, they’ve already written chapters of sweat and effort as the first out trans and non-binary competitor in Olympic history. They will also have a chance to add the word medalist to their story.
As the soccer match ends, a weightlifting arena in the Yurakucho business district of Tokyo, 90 minutes away, will be the next chapter. Perhaps the most discussed and debated name of these Games will step into the harsh light of the world sporting stage.
New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will take her first attempt in the snatch in the 87+kg category. She will be the first transgender woman to compete in Olympic history. She has, at best, a puncher’s chance to win a medal.
The common denominator of both of these is that the vision those seeking exclusion have tried to sell will be shown false once again. The nightmare of transgender people in sport as equal to Godzilla and Mothra rising from Tokyo Bay and destroying the entire metropolis will be noise and hysteria signifying nothing.
”The Olympic Games are a global celebration of our hopes, our ideals and our values. I commend the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible.” — Laurel Hubbard in a statement to Sky Sports, August 1, 2021
Hubbard has largely been out of the public eye since her breakthrough silver medal at the 2017 International Weightlifting Federation World Championships. The conjecture about her and the “debate” surrounding transgender people in sports, and transgender people in general, has been front and center.
A lot of voices that have been heard about this issue in hearings, panels, sports broadcasts, and varied news stories are largely cisgender voices. While there is certainly some support, many of those voices drip with venom against those just seeking a place to be and compete.
These voices have been so pervasive that the International Olympic Committee had to call a press conference to say emphatically that Laurel Hubbard qualified under the rules and will compete.
We hear a lot about “advantage” and “fairness,” yet those are rarely discussed from the perspective of transgender people. Rarely is a voice like a Joanna Harper, who’s research and reportage have shed a great deal of light, heard in the discourse. As fellow journalist Britni de la Cretaz said on an episode of NBC Sports’ On Her Turf:
“In the case of transgender women, who are really the most marginalized women, instead of centering them we kind of dehumanize them by focusing on their biology and hormones. We reduce them to that, instead of their personhood. That’s something that I think is really harmful. We focus on how cisgender people feel about trans women competing rather than how trans women feel about being excluded.”
Being Black, a transgender woman, an athlete and a journalist, I feel those words, and I feel the sting of the mean tweets and venom that Hubbard, Quinn, USA BMX freestyle athlete Chelsea Wolfe, and non-binary American Olympic skateboarder Alana White have dealt with. I feel that hurt, because I’ve been there.
We know quite well that there’s a cabal of people worldwide who’d rather we weren’t here or anywhere in society.
That won’t matter so much on Monday, which I see as a day of trans joy. Every sliding tackle, every clean and jerk, will be a treat, a victory, and an honor to see.
Seeing Quinn locking in on Megan Rapinoe with the match in the balance won’t strike down any of the ridiculous legislation we are seeing in much of the United States right now. Hubbard’s strongly lifting the bar over her head won’t overturn the edicts that deny trans people legal recognition in Hungary, won’t reclaim “LGBTQ free zones” in Poland, or prevent telegenic transphobes spewing their dehumanizing drivel.
Seeing Laurel Hubbard lift and Quinn patrolling the midfield will be a place of refuge. For a trans community that has been under siege worldwide, both of them will be our pride and our joy, win or lose.
Both further emphasize our philosophy at Outsports: “Courage Is Contagious”.
Laurel, Quinn, enjoy this time and know that so many others like you will be in that arena with you, even from our television screens.
Also know that somewhere, some young transgender kid maybe watching with an affirming, loving parent telling them, “That could be you someday.”
That kid will look to the screen, see you both and say, “No. That will be me!”