Laura Goodkind is an American rower for whom Tokyo marks the second trip to the Paralympics. Yet submerging their oars coincides with a deeply personal mission this time around.
Goodkind is one of three out Paralympians, joining Australia’s Robyn Lambird and Maz Strong, whose gender identity exists beyond the binary. Identifying as gender-neutral, they hope their presence on that stage speaks to non-binary and gender-diverse audiences internationally.
“Having the opportunity to speak about who I am to the world is an honor, and, potentially, a huge undertaking,” Goodkind told Outsports. “I will continue to be myself no matter what. And now perhaps others will feel more comfortable, being able to display their congruent whole self at all times.”
Goodkind’s experience in defining their gender growing up is easily recognizable to many others who view themselves outside the gender binary.
“I tried to squeeze my gender and sexuality into those binaries, unaware there was a spectrum,” Goodkind said. Learning about gender-diverse and non-binary identities finally gave Goodkind some solace, classifying their gender as neutral rather than non-binary “because I want to affirm what and who I am, as opposed to what I am not.”
Much like the 2020 Summer Olympics, the 2020 Summer Paralympics mark the largest presence of LGBTQ — and specifically non-binary/neutral/gender-diverse — athletes ever seen in the event’s history.
The mixed double sculls competitor wants others who may be in the same place they were — struggling to define themselves and see positive representations of their community — to find power in their presence.
“No matter who you are, or whatever your situation, you can transcend labels and situations,” Goodkind said. “I’ve always been this way, whether on a world stage or in private. People can choose to accept me for who I am; what’s most important to me is that I embrace and accept who I am.”
But Goodkind’s mission of education and acceptance exists alongside their drive to bring another medal to the community. They told Outsports that they’re excited to race on the Paralympics stage once again and be around “an incredibly accepting community where physical and emotional barriers barely exist.
“Except for socially distancing, of course.”
Their quest to improve on a 10th place performance in Rio starts on August 26.
You can follow Laura Goodkind on Instagram.