Transgender Olympians Making History, Leaving Legacies

August 2, 2021 (New York, NY) — Today in Tokyo, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender woman to compete in the Olympics. Last week, Team Canada soccer player Quinn, who also plays for the NWSL’s OL Reign and is an Athlete Ally Ambassador and former Athlete Ally Campus Chapter member, became the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics when their team played Japan on July 21. With their team’s win this morning, Quinn is set to become the first transgender and non-binary athlete to win an Olympic medal. Team USA Freestyle BMX alternate Chelsea Wolfe, also an Athlete Ally Ambassador, is the first openly transgender woman to represent Team USA, and the first openly transgender athlete to represent Team USA at the Olympics.

“First openly trans Olympian to compete. I don’t know how to feel. I feel proud seeing ‘Quinn’ up on the lineup and on my accreditation,” Quinn said in a public statement released by the National Women’s Soccer League. “I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world. I feel optimistic for change. Change in legislature. Changes in rules, structures and mindsets.”

In a statement reported on by USA Today, Hubbard said, “They have supported me through what have been quite difficult times,” Hubbard said of her country’s Olympic committee. “I know that my participation at these Games has not been entirely without controversy, but they have been just so wonderful.” The IWF, she added, “really demonstrate that weightlifting is an activity that all people can do.” And the IOC “reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of the Olympism,” Hubbard said. “They have demonstrated, I think, that sport is something that all people around the world can do. It’s inclusive. It’s accessible.”

We are witnessing history at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with a record number of 170+ out LGBTQ+ athletes competing, including our first ever openly transgender and non-binary Olympians. Quinn, Laurel Hubbard and Chelsea Wolfe are breaking barriers and showing transgender athletes and fans worldwide that there is a place for them at the highest level of sport. We are also thrilled to see Quinn and Alana Smith blazing trails as our first-ever out non-binary Olympians.

It can often feel like social progress towards greater inclusivity happens in very small steps. At Tokyo 2020, we are seeing athletes taking giant leaps towards a global sport community that better represents the diversity of athletes competing; however, much work lies ahead to ensure that all athletes, and especially Black women, are not subjected to discriminatory policies and practices that restrict their participation and their human rights.

LGBTQ+ visibility and representation can be lifesaving. For LGBTQ+ youth facing a record-breaking year of legislative attacks against their basic human rights, to see that they can be their authentic selves and reach their highest athletic dreams is profound and necessary. Every athlete deserves to be safe, welcome and included in the sport they love, whether that’s on an international stage or their neighborhood baseball field. We are at our best as an athletic community when we fight together for inclusivity, and to #LetKidsPlay.

Together with GLAAD and Pride House Tokyo, Athlete Ally developed a media guide on LGBTQ+ athletes for Tokyo2020, available here.