Laurel Hubbard and the Olympic Uproar


I have no interest in the Olympics, or sport, or physical activity of any kind. The only news coming out of the Olympics this week that has interested me is seeing the occasional symbolic protest, or that situation with the Belarusian woman seeking asylum in the Polish Embassy. Ok, the video of the Qatari and Italian jumpers sharing the gold was wholesome.

But if there is one “issue” that has swept Olympic commentary, it is Laurel Hubbard, the trans woman from New Zealand that made mildly interesting history and a staggering number of headlines. I wonder why?

I’m not an expert on specific trans issues, so I would leave such discussions for those who are. I think the International Olympic Committee qualifies for that in the sporting arena. My suggestion would have been to base it on hormone levels perhaps, which with some digging it seems they’ve done for quite some time and are continuously working on updating it in line with the latest scientific research on the spectrum of physical capabilities of men and women.

But it happened – followers of God and lovers of the traditional family, quake! A transgender woman, Laurel Hubbard, dared compete in the women’s weightlifting because she is, in fact, a woman who met all of the requirements to compete. The IOC has allowed trans athletes to compete since 2004, have a number of guidelines – including adjustments to hormone levels for the relevant duration – that they must adhere to, and until now have not had a single trans athlete compete (at least no one who was/is openly trans). Now that they have, this first openly trans woman… didn’t win a single medal.

She didn’t even get a single lift done correctly.

There was also more than one trans person competing, who I only found out about looking stuff up for this short piece. Two non-binary people to be specific. Quinn took part in the Canadian women’s soccer team, and as the team qualified to win a medal, Quinn has become the first trans person to win one. Alana Smith is an American skateboarder who competed in the women’s street skateboarding semi-finals and came twentieth at the heat stage (whatever that means).

So why all this focus on Hubbard but relative silence on the other two? Is it because Quinn and Smith, who also took part in women’s competitions, were assigned female at birth, while Hubbard was assigned male at birth? Given the aforementioned guidelines, they all qualified, so it hardly seems relevant what their assigned gender was. All the screeching about differences between male and female bodies seem to fall away when adjustments are made specifically for that. And would people have been similarly invested in this discussion if Quinn and Smith had entered the male competitions instead?

Unlikely. So why all the outrage from certain media outlets and vitriol online? Well, as the Spectator put it, “the entrance of a male into their sport made my heart break for girls.”

It’s bigotry and ignorance, pure and simple. This has nothing to do with women or sports – many of those receptive to these arguments probably aren’t marching for women’s rights or care about women’s sports beyond the amount of skin some uniforms show. “I watch for the plot!” comes to mind.

No, the people who are angry about Hubbard competing aren’t actually interested in the science and differences of and between sex and gender, along with all the factors that go into them. Nor are they open to the IOC’s own rules and positions. I doubt many of them truly care about a trans woman competing in the Olympics at all. It’s just another popular avenue to shit on trans people. It’s people who are uninformed and prejudiced against a group they deem “degenerate” or “wrong” looking for legitimacy with the public over a single instance blown out of proportion.

The offensive meme on Twitter, paragraph of text supposedly rallying for the “defence of women” on Facebook, or favoured media outlet or personality’s segment (despite them likely advocating for the rollback of women’s rights elsewhere) does not invalidate the identity of trans people. It does not count as “fact” against the actual facts of science. It does not overrule the IOC’s official rules.

These people aren’t interested in genuine debate over how best to approach trans athletes competing in sports. They’re interested in sparking divisive discourse, then blaming the “other side” for launching a culture war. It’s pathetic, doesn’t progress the conversation in any meaningful way, and is harmful to those who are affected by such hostility.

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