Among the trans and nonbinary trailblazers making history at the Tokyo 2020 Games, Canadian soccer player Quinn is on track to become the first openly nonbinary and transgender competitor to win an Olympic medal Monday as New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, the first openly transgender woman to compete, is eliminated without registering a single lift.
Quinn, a midfielder on the Canadian women’s soccer team who identifies as nonbinary, made history as the first openly transgender competitor in an Olympic Games.
With Canada’s triumph over the U.S. women’s squad in a semifinal match Monday, Quinn is practically guaranteed to become the first openly trans and nonbinary athlete to win an Olympic medal in the final Thursday (the game’s losers still win silver).
New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard was the first openly trans woman to compete at the Olympics Monday but was eliminated after failing to register a single lift in the final.
Hubbard, whose participation prompted fierce backlash and debate around the world, made a heart gesture to the crowd and cameras and thanked the International Weightlifting Federation for showing “that weightlifting is an activity that’s open to all of the people in the world.”
Alana Smith was the first openly nonbinary athlete to represent the U.S., placing last in women’s street skateboarding—on a board decorated with they/them pronouns—but was “proud” of achieving their goal of being “a visual representation for humans like me.”
Trans athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since Athens hosted in 2004. Four Games—in Athens, Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro—and a guideline change in 2016 (permitting trans athletes to compete without undergoing surgery) later, openly trans and nonbinary athletes have qualified to compete for the first time. Critics argue that the inclusion of trans athletes, notably trans women, is unfair to other competitors. On the other hand, scientific research, while not definitive, generally does not reveal trans athletes to have the advantages critics say they do nor is there evidence that trans athletes inevitably dominate sports they compete in. Olympic officials defended Hubbard’s participation as valid under existing rules, though the International Olympic Committee said it plans to release new guidelines for transgender athletes within two months. These will be focused on safety, fairness and inclusion, the organization said.
Commentators misgendered Alana Smith as they competed in the skateboarding street event for Team USA, with NBC and BBC pundits using incorrect pronouns throughout the event. Quinn was also misgendered on broadcasts on CBC. Official Olympic biographics for both Quinn and Smith also misgender the two athletes at the top of their pages, though their preferred they/them pronouns are used for the rest of the document.
Changing The Game, a documentary from Emmy award-winning filmmaker Michael Barnett, follows the lives of three trans high school athletes in the U.S. Amid myriad efforts to restrict the participation of trans athletes across the U.S.—typically based on an assertion that trans athletes (mainly trans women) have an unfair advantage over cisgender competitors—the film shines a more human light on the real people whose lives are the subject of politicized debates on trans rights.