Transgender Athletes Compete at the Tokyo Olympics

Canadian soccer star Quinn isn’t the only transgender and/or non-binary athlete competing at the Tokyo Olympics. Apart from Quinn, there are at least three other athletes with that gender identity, namely Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand in weight lifting; Alana Smith from the United States in skateboarding; and Chelsea Wolfe, also from the United States, in BMX cycling. However, Quinn will be the only one of them to take home the medal.

The type of medal, of course, will depend on the outcome of the match between Canada and the Swedish women’s soccer team on Friday. Canada will compete for gold against Sweden after beating the United States 1-0 on Monday (2/8), thanks to a penalty kick in the 75th minute of the game.

Friday’s game (6/8) will be the first time the Canadian women’s soccer team has participated in a final match at the Olympics. “I am very proud of my team. They are my best friends. I’m so happy we took home a better medal than bronze,” said Quinn, whose name consists of only one word, according to Canadian media outlet CBC.

The Toronto native’s Olympic debut was actually at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where he helped his team win a bronze medal. He previously played for Duke University, then played professionally for the Washington Spirit, Paris FC and Seattle Reign FC, according to the Canadian Olympic Committee website.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics women's soccer match, Group E, between Japanese teams against Canada at the Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan, July 21, 2021. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

Tokyo 2020 Olympics women’s soccer match, Group E, between Japanese teams against Canada at the Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan, July 21, 2021. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

But at the Tokyolah Olympics Quinn for the first time openly revealed herself as a transgender and/or nonbiner athlete. In an Instagram post earlier this year, he encouraged his followers to be more friendly with people like him.

There are at least 180 LGBTQ athletes at this year’s Olympics, according to the latest tally from sports website LGBTQ Outsports.

Quinn and his team will win a silver or gold medal. Whatever the medal, his fans celebrate what the win means to transgender and/or nonbinary people.

Quinn became the first openly transgender athlete to compete in the 125-year history of the Olympics, although the Olympics began allowing transgender athletes in 2004.

In a July 22 Instagram post, Quinn wrote that it’s hard to describe how she feels about the historic achievement. He said he was proud to be included in the ranks of the Olympic athletes but also sad that many previous Olympic athletes could not enjoy the conveniences he faced because the world was not ready to accept them.

Quinn (number 5) during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Women's Soccer Group E between Chilli and Canada at the Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan, July 24, 2021. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

Quinn (number 5) during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Women’s Soccer Group E between Chilli and Canada at the Sapporo Dome, Sapporo, Japan, July 24, 2021. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

Under current Olympic guidelines, which were updated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2015, transgender men can compete in the men’s category at the Olympics without restrictions.

The regulations for transgender female athletes are much stricter. Their testosterone levels must be below 10 nanomoles per liter of blood for at least 12 months prior to their first competition, although there is no clear scientific evidence to prove that testosterone enhances the performance of top athletes.

In fact there are several other prominent transgender and/or non-binary athletes who were previously expected to compete in Tokyo. But they failed in qualifying at the respective country level. Nikki Hiltz did not qualify in the women’s 1,500 meters for the US team, as did her partner – CeCe Telfer – who was declared ineligible in her bid to compete in the 400 meters hurdles category. Volleyball player Tiffany Abreu did not make the final list of Brazil’s Olympic team.

The International Olympic Committee has allowed transgender athletes to participate in the Olympics since 2004, but until this year, no one had done so publicly. Apart from Quinn, Hubbard, Smith and Wolfe, several transgender athletes reportedly competed without revealing their gender change.

Quinn (red shirt) plays on the gridiron, during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics soccer semi-final match between Canada and the United States at the Ibaraki Kashima stadium, August 2, 2021. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Quinn (red shirt) plays on the gridiron, during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics soccer semi-final match between Canada and the United States at the Ibaraki Kashima stadium, August 2, 2021. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

The transgender visibility that has emerged at the Tokyo Olympics comes amid a wave of anti-transgender laws sweeping the United States.

Proposed laws that prohibit or restrict transgender athletes from participating in competitive sports in elementary, high school, and even college have been introduced in 37 states. At least seven states have enacted the law, although many of them are facing lawsuits.

The US Department of Justice recently challenged a ban targeting transgender athletes in West Virginia, and other laws affecting children in the state of Arkansas. The Justice Department said the two pieces of legislation violated federal law. Last June, the department even said it would file a lawsuit to overturn new laws that have been enacted in the two states.

The department said laws enacted in both states violated the equality protection clause contained in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The department also said the law in West Virginia violated a civil rights law called Title X, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any educational program or activity that receives federal funding. [ab/uh]

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