Canadian soccer star Quinn wins Olympic gold, makes transgender history without uproar

The same people accused of being transphobic for wanting to ban male-born transgender athletes from women’s sports have no problem with Canadian soccer player Quinn.

The 25-year-old midfielder won a gold medal Friday with the Canadian women’s team and was promptly hailed as the first out transgender non-binary athlete to compete and medal in the Olympic games.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that “Team Canada’s gold medal win in soccer was historic in so many ways.”

“@TheQuinny5 became the first openly transgender and non-binary athlete to win an Olympic medal,” said Mr. Trudeau. “Quinn, your win today will inspire so many to keep playing and to keep pursuing their dreams.”

Unlike male-born transgender Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, however, Quinn generated little if any controversy, namely because Quinn, formerly Rebecca Quinn, was born female and continues to play on the women’s side after coming out last year as transgender.

That’s fine with Nicola Williams, spokesperson for Fair Play for Women, which has decried the International Olympic Committee’s 2015 guidelines allowing male-born athletes like Hubbard to compete against women as long as they keep their testosterone below a certain level.

“We have no problem whatsoever with anyone born female playing in a category reserved for the female sex,” said Ms. Williams in an email. “Quinn‘s gender identity makes no difference to which sex category they belong in, and it’s great to see trans people doing well at the highest levels in sport. Sex and gender identity are two very different things, both are important but sex matters most in sport.”

Same with former Canadian track champion Linda Blade, author of “Unsporting: How Trans Activism and Science Denial Are Destroying Sport,” who said she was “absolutely OK” with Quinn winning a medal on the women’s team.

“Quinn is a female born person playing on a female team in a female sport,” said Ms. Blade. “There’s nothing exceptional about this story, actually. In any case, I fight for Quinn’s right to participate in the sport of Quinn’s biological sex.”

Quinn’s win gave Ms. Blade and others fighting to keep male-born athletes out of women’s sports an opportunity to make it clear that they don’t oppose all transgender athletes in sports, just male-born competitors seeking to enter girls’ and women’s competitions.

Save Women’s Sports president Beth Stelzer, who has crisscrossed the country testifying on behalf of Fairness in Women’s Sports bills, said in her Wisconsin testimony that she and others have been “labeled as transphobic, bigoted, racist for simply trying to protect the rights of females.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said that supporters of such bills, which have passed in eight states, are “trying to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports on equal terms with their cisgender peers.”

“In 2020, 18 states introduced legislation that would ban transgender student athletes from participating in school sports. In 2021, 31 states introduced similar legislation,” said the ACLU on its website.

None of the bills restricts the ability of female-born transgender athletes to compete against males or remain in the women’s division, or male-born transgender competitors to play on the boys’ and men’s side.

New Zealand’s Hubbard has been widely described as the first openly transgender Olympian, but Reuters corrected that description Thursday by calling her “the first openly transgender athlete to compete in an Olympics in a different gender category to that assigned at birth.”

Hubbard, 43, who transitioned from male to female at age 34, failed to complete any of her three lifts Monday in the women’s super-heavyweight category.

Quinn, a member of Canada‘s bronze-medal team in the 2016 Rio Olympics, said in a July 22 Instagram post “[f]irst openly trans Olympian to compete. I don’t know how to feel,” while declaring that transgender athletes faced discrimination.

“Trans girls being banned from sports. Trans women facing discrimination and bias while trying to pursue their Olympic dreams. The fight isn’t close to over… and I’ll celebrate when we’re all here,” said Quinn, who uses “they” pronouns.

HISTORY ? @TheQuinny5 has become the first openly trans athlete to win an Olympic medal ? Although Quinn (they/them) won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics, this marks their first win since coming out as non-binary last year #OlympicsForAll

Quinn and the other known female-born non-binary athlete, U.S. skateboarder Alana Smith, both participated in the women’s category at the Tokyo Olympics, leading to questions about why they didn’t compete based on gender identity in the men’s division.

Athlete Ally spokesperson Joanna Hoffman said that they are both non-binary, which means their gender identity is neither male nor female.

“They both identify as non-binary, and there is no non-binary category available. Hopefully in the future there will be more expansive categories that reflect the diversity of athletes competing,” said Ms. Hoffman in an email.

Said Ms. Blade: “Quinn would have no chance in men’s soccer.”

Canadian cannabis activist Marc Emery asked what the fuss was all about.

“Quinn is the only person I know by name on the Flag of Canada women’s soccer team, because she gets all the media, as the trans darling usually does in any team sport,” he tweeted. “But Quinn is a biological female so what is ‘Trans’ about her? Do you just have to say ‘they’ instead of ‘her’ & you’re in?”

Save Women’s Sports Australasia said that “Quinn is still a biological female playing in the women’s category, and is entitled to do so irregardless of gender identity.”

Dan Cruz, spokesperson for the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, said that the organization had no objections to Quinn’s participation, given that “Quinn is female and not on male gender affirming hormones.”

We welcome athletes in the female category whatever their gender identity so long as they are female and not on male gender affirming hormones, or if they are male so long as they have mitigated their male sex-linked performance advantages,” Mr. Cruz said.

Under the IOC guidelines, male-born transgender athletes may compete in women’s events as long as they lower their testosterone in serum to below 10 nanomoles per liter at least 12 months before competition and maintain it during eligibility.

There are no such restrictions for female-born athletes who identify as male.

“Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction,” said the IOC guidance.

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