Laurel Hubbard, who is set to become the first out transgender woman to compete in the Olympics, has released a statement praising the International Olympic Committee for its inclusivity.
Hubbard, who will compete in women’s weight lifting for New Zealand Monday, seldom gives interviews, but an email from her was read Friday at a media roundtable in Tokyo, GLAAD reports in a press release.
“The Olympic Games are a global celebration of our hopes, our ideals and our values,” the message from Hubbard said. “I commend the IOC for its commitment to making sport inclusive and accessible.”
Hubbard’s appearance in the Olympics comes at a time of controversy over trans women athletes competing with cisgender women, with some people contending (wrongly) that trans women have an inherent and unfair advantage over cis women. But the Olympics have allowed trans women since 2004, and Hubbard is the first to qualify (in 2015 the IOC ceased requiring gender-affirmation surgery for them; now it just requires testosterone to be suppressed to a certain level).
Lilla Sági, operations director for the International Weightlifting Federation, addressed the standards Hubbard met to qualify. “[Hubbard] complied with the qualification rules of the IWF, complied with all the requirements of the IWF’s transgender policy,” Sági said, according to GLAAD. “In these terms means that she declared herself as a female athlete and also that she has demonstrated to the IWF that her testosterone level in serum samples was below the required threshold … therefore, she is eligible to compete, she has every right to be here. And she deserves the most respect from the IWF community.”
Kereyn Smith, secretary general of New Zealand Olympic Committee, said Hubbard reflects the values of the committee and of New Zealand. “Our human rights policy talks about our values about inclusivity, respect, and integrity,” Smith said. “So it’s very important to us that if an athlete achieves a standard and is selected into their team that they are welcomed and taken care of and are able to perform to the very best of their ability.”
“Laurel has just arrived a couple of days ago,” Smith continued. “I just bumped into her at lunch and we understand that she’s comfortable. She’s getting ready. She well understands the size of the stage and is very grateful to be able to compete in this environment.”
Barbara Simon, GLAAD’s head of news and campaigns, issued a statement of praise for Hubbard and her inclusion. “All experts in Laurel Hubbard’s sport and in Olympic policy affirmed again today that she has fairly earned her chance to compete at the Tokyo Games,” Simon said. “Transgender athletes have been welcome to participate in the Olympics and Paralympics for almost 20 years; Laurel is the first out trans [woman] athlete to even qualify in that time. There is simply no evidence to support false claims that transgender people are a threat to sports or anywhere else in society. On the contrary, Laurel’s presence and own words today highlight what the Olympics can and should be: a celebration of unity, equality, and inclusion. We urge all media to cover her historic participation with the facts and with respect for all that Laurel has achieved.”
Quinn, a member of the Canadian women’s soccer team, is trans and nonbinary, and was the first out trans person overall to appear in the Olympics. They participated in all three matches in the first round of play at the Tokyo games, in which Canada had two wins and a tie; the nation has now advanced to the semifinals. Quinn was on the team when it won the bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 but was not out as trans or nonbinary then. They came out last year.