Forty-three-year-old weightlifter, Laurel Hubbard, is making history as she becomes the first-ever openly transgender person to compete in the Olympics. Representing her country of New Zealand, Hubbard will be competing in the women’s 87-kilogram event.
The subject matter of transgender people competing in sports has been a topic of debate for many years. A lot of people feel as though transgender people have an “unfair advantage” and therefore should not be competing in the competition that corresponds to their gender identity. Unsurprisingly, this was a challenge Hubbard had to overcome in order to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
When the International Olympic Guidelines were rewritten to include that transgender women can compete alongside cisgender women as long as their testosterone levels fall “below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition,” Hubbard’s eligibility was clear.
“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on IOC Consensus Statement guidelines for transgender athletes,” said Kereyn Smith, CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, in a statement. Smith also included, “We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play.”
Laurel Hubbard’s athletic struggle
After competing in men’s competitions for the majority of her athletic career, Hubbard began her transition from male to female in 2013. She has lived her life openly transgender since then, but this has still caused her some issues in regards to how people see her as an athlete. In 2018, Australia’s weightlifting association attempted to have her blocked from participating in the competition, as stated by The Guardian.
Critics use the argument that transgender athletes will benefit from unfair physical advantages, but doctors have offered that those sentiments are largely untrue.
According to People, Hubbard commented about her experience with transphobia in sports, despite the fact that she was assigned male at birth. “It’s not my role or my goal to change people’s minds,” said the athlete. “I would hope they would support me, but it’s not for me to make them do so.”
Hubbard’s Olympic debut is all the more impressive when you learn that she suffered a career-threatening injury. “When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end,” said the athlete.
She continued on to state, “But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha carried me through the darkness. The last eighteen months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”
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