The Olympics are founded on the principle of building a better world through sport, and when New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard competes in the women’s 87-kilogram weight-lifting competition in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, the organization will be living up to that promise.
Hubbard is making global headlines as the first out trans athlete to participate in the Olympics. The New Zealand Olympic Committee announced in June that she would be on the national team.
The Olympics have always been about more than just sports. They’re about inspiring young people, respecting and valuing diversity, and celebrating the human spirit. When a group of people is excluded from that vision, it’s incomplete.
Chris Mosier, the founder of TransAthlete.com and the athlete who challenged the International Olympic Committee’s policy on trans athletes back in 2015, says that Hubbard competing in the Olympics serves as inspiration “to every young athlete wondering if they can continue to play sports and be their authentic selves. Laurel’s presence on the world’s biggest stage will open another door for transgender people across the globe.”
Hubbard’s participation is also a good sign that the sporting world is listening to science on the issue of trans athletes rather than to the angry anti-trans throngs online.
According to medical experts, trans women who have been on hormone therapy have hormone levels equivalent to those of cis women. Furthermore, sports scientists say that only a small number of athletic disciplines see an association between better performance and higher levels of testosterone. There is simply no scientific basis to ban trans women from competing with other women.
The International Olympic Committee has been espousing that belief for years, and now the organization is putting it into practice.
When fans see Hubbard competing, trans folks and allies are reminded that no matter how loud trans-exclusionary radical feminists are online, they aren’t winning this fight.
That’s especially important to remember when about 30 states across the U.S. have considered bills this year that would bar trans athletes from playing school sports with other people of the same gender. Hubbard competing with the blessing of the IOC is a firm rebuke to every Republican who has introduced and espoused those bills.
The debate over whether or not trans athletes can compete in the Olympics was decided back in 2004, when the IOC declared that they can. When the IOC changed its transgender athlete policy in 2015 to no longer require bottom surgery, it removed the barrier of an extremely expensive, difficult, and not-always-wanted procedure that had blocked many trans athletes from even attempting to qualify for the games.
Now, in 2021, we’re finally seeing the historic moment when a trans athlete will step onto the world’s most massive sports platform and trans athletes will finally become a part of the Olympic dream.