By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
Weeks ago, weightlifter Laurel Hubbard made history by becoming the first transgender athlete to qualify for the Olympic Games. Not surprisingly, her qualification has led to an outcry from the anti-trans crowd with the usual unsupported arguments regarding unfair advantage, taking away opportunities from cisgender athletes and blah blah blah.
The anti-trans crowd has tried to go all the way up to the president of the International Olympic Committee himself, Thomas Bach, to disqualify Hubbard and remove her from the competition. Thankfully, he’s not having it.
“The rules for qualification have been established by the International Weightlifting Federation before the qualifications started,” Bach said, according to Reuters.
“These rules apply, and you cannot change rules during ongoing competitions.
“At the same time the IOC is in an inquiry phase with all different stakeholders… to review these rules and finally come up with some guidelines which cannot be rules because this is a question where there is no one-size fits all solution.
“It differs from sport to sport.”
Coming just short of expressing whether he supports Hubbard himself, he reiterated that the rules in place during a qualification period cannot and will not be changed.
“The rules are in place and the rules have to be applied and you cannot change the rules during an ongoing qualification system.
“This is what all the athletes of the world are relying on: that the rules are being applied.”
The eyes are on Hubbard going into the Olympics with everybody ready to make a big deal out of her performance, regardless of the result, in terms of her gender identity and expression. Ashley Abbott, the communications director for the New Zealand Olympic Committee is working closely with Hubbard for their plan as they expect a huge focus on her gender identity in Tokyo.
“We are working really closely with Laurel, as we do with any athlete, but particularly because of the huge focus on her,” Abbott said. “We will continue to work with her and make sure she is supported at all times and has got an understanding about what the environment might be like.
Hubbard herself is grateful for the opportunity and chooses to stay focused on her sport rather than any distractions.
“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end” Hubbard shared. “But your support, your encouragement, and your ‘aroha’ [affection] carried me through the darkness.”
No doubt her competing will have a major influence on transgender athletes, the Olympics and all of sports for years to come, but in the end, it’s about doing what she came to Tokyo to do; lift her best.