Laurel Hubbard Is About to Be the First Openly Trans Olympian



The Tokyo Olympics are bound to be historic, and not just because they were rescheduled for this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A potentially record-breaking number of out LGBTQ+ athletes are qualifying for the games, including Laurel Hubbard, who will be the first-ever openly trans Olympic competitor.

Hubbard, who is 43 and among New Zealand’s five qualifying weightlifters, will be competing in the category for women over 87 kilograms, which is roughly 192 metric pounds.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement released by the country’s Olympic team Tuesday.

Hubbard has overcome significant adversity in her journey to the Olympics, having broken her arm at Australia’s Commonwealth Games in 2018. “I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end,” Hubbard said. “But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha carried me through the darkness.” (Aroha is the Māori word for love.)

“The last 18 months [have] shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together toward a common purpose,” she added. “The mana of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.” The plant is a national symbol of New Zealand, and mana is a Māori concept for status or power.

Kereyn Smith, CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, also evoked the Māori concept of manaaki, which connotes support and protection, when discussing Hubbard’s qualifications.

“As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of manaaki and inclusion and respect for all,” Smith said in a statement. “We are committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes and ensuring their mental and physical well-being, along with their high-performance needs, while preparing for and competing at the Olympic Games are met.”

Smith also emphasized that Hubbard has met the International Weightlifting Federation and International Olympic Committee criteria for trans competitors. Those criteria include having identified as female for four years, having a testosterone level below 10 nmol/L, and complying with possible future hormone testing.

Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand president Richie Patterson praised Hubbard’s “grit and perseverance” in her recovery from her injury.

“Laurel is an astute student of the sport and technically very good with the lifts,” Patterson said in a statement. “We look forward to supporting her in her final preparations toward Tokyo.”

Hubbard joins a growing wave of openly queer and trans Olympians qualifying for this summer’s games. Sha’Carri Richardson, who attributed her vibrant orange hair color choice to her girlfriend, qualified for the U.S. track and field team on Saturday.

The French documentary We Need to Talk, which aired over the weekend, also showcased six French athletes who have come out as queer. They include three current Olympians: fencer Astrid Guyart, judo competitor Amandine Buchard, and basketball player Céline Dumerc, according to the LGBTQ+ sports news outlet Outsports.

Outsports previously reported in 2019 that the 2020 Olympics was shaping up to be the queerest ever, with an estimate of more than 100 out athletes competing. That’s nearly twice as many as the previous record of 56 out athletes, at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. From the looks of it, it seems that prediction is coming to fruition—just a year later than we originally anticipated.

If current trends hold, the 2021 Olympics could be the queerest yet.

This post was originally published on Them.


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