When the Olympics began, there was a lot of discussion about trans and non-binary athletes stepping into this cauldron for the first time. That first time came before the Olympic flame was lit. The date was July 21, 2021.
The midfielder wearing #5 for Canada entered the pitch that night against the host, Japan. The name “Quinn” picked up the connecting phrase “the first trans non-binary athlete to participate in the Olympic Games” in full.
Sitting in front of a computer terminal on an early morning and trying to not wake up my house mates, this reporter sat in a near-uncontainable excitement. The last time I felt this inner buzz was watching Super Bowl XXII as a teenager and seeing a quarterback who was Black like me leading a team to a championship.
On that July day two weeks ago, I saw someone who was transgender like me about to play on the biggest sporting stage in the world.
They brought their usual hard-nosed play controlling the center midfield and marked Japan’s explosive forwards. In the 43rd minute of the match, Quinn extinguished an offensive threat with a sharp sliding tackle, and I woke up my housemates cheering on the play.
The history and impact of just being there meant volumes. In an interview on The Trans Sporter Room last fall, Quinn spelled it out.
“It’s a place for me to trailblaze as a trans athlete. I want to use my platform. One of the reasons I came out was to use my platform and I’m hoping with my voice can help uplift other trans voices in our community.” — Quinn on The Trans Sporter Room, October, 2020.
Throughout this draw, watching Quinn play was a mix of pride, power and inspiration. They brought the fight, ferocity, and what the soccer aficionados call “work rate”.
Quinn was always in motion, and willing to get grass stains while averaging over 60 minutes played per match. Their effort and leadership rubbed off on a young Canada defense seen as suspect in pool play. The unit improved match to match up to a shutout gem in their historic semifinal win over the United States.
Those mattered as much to me as the history being made. I was proud because Quinn showed up, and I was fired up because they showed out.
The stat sheet records Quinn scored no goals in this Olympic tournament, but their play on the pitch factored into Canada women’s soccer achieving its prime goal.
After two consecutive bronze-medal finishes in the Olympics, the Canadian battle cry was “change the color of the medal”.
Gold medal secured in a heart-stopping penalty shootout. Mission. Accomplished.
Quinn’s play emphasized their prime personal goal as well.
A goal measured in the form of every young trans and non-binary person who have a model to look at and a sporting dream within reach. A goal measured in a lot of trans folks like me standing a little taller, and smiling a little wider. A goal measured in the positive conversations that took place in a team locker room, and hopefully spread into other locker rooms, board rooms, and legislative chambers across North America and around the world.
Thank you, Quinn. Thanks for the courage to come forward, the grit to go the distance, and fire you showed every game that helped forge gold.
Memo to Canada Soccer: If you start selling the player jerseys, I’ll take a #5, please.