Laurel Hubbard, a New Zealand weightlifter, will become the first ever openly transgender individual to compete at the Olympics. She has been selected as a member of the New Zealand women’s weightlifting team for this summer’s Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games.
Hubbard will compete in the 87-kilogram women’s category. She suffered a potentially career-ending arm injury in 2018 but has since made a comeback.
In a statement, Hubbard expressed her gratitude to her supporters. “I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” she said.
The 43-year-old weightlifter qualified for the Olympics after the International Olympic Committee changed its guidelines regarding transgender athletes in 2015. According to the new IOC requirements, transgender women must wait to compete until 12 months after beginning hormone therapy. They must also prove that their levels of testosterone, the hormone that increases muscle and bone mass, are below a threshold of 10 nanomoles per liter. Previously, transgender women could not compete until they had waited two years after having sex reassignment surgery.
Hubbard’s selection for the New Zealand women’s weightlifting team comes at a time of ongoing debate, both internationally and within the U.S., regarding transgender women’s eligibility to participate in sports. Just this year, Alabama, Montana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Dakota, Florida, and West Virginia passed anti-trans legislation that prohibits transgender women and girls from playing in women’s public-school sports.
In response to this legislation, the National Collegiate Athletic Association expressed its support for transgender athletes. The NCAA’s Board of Governors said in a statement, “Inclusion and fairness can coexist for all student-athletes, including transgender athletes, at all levels of sport.”
Hubbard has met all the necessary criteria to compete in the Olympics, including the requirements of the International Olympic Committee, the International Weightlifting Federation, and the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
Kereyn Smith, the CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, said in a statement, “We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play. As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of manaaki and inclusion and respect for all. We are committed to supporting all eligible New Zealand athletes and ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing, along with their high-performance needs, while preparing for and competing at the Olympic Games are met.”
Sources: The Washington Post 6/21/21; CNN 6/21/21; New Zealand Olympic Committee 6/21/21; NewsNation Now 6/1/21; CNN 4/13/21