Who is Laurel Hubbard? Kiwi weightlifter 1st trans athlete to compete in Olympics women's event
Laurel Hubbard’s selection in the Olympics provides not just representation for trans athletes, but also a perfect precedent for other countries
Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics after being selected by New Zealand for the women’s event at the Tokyo Games. This decision comes in the wake of allegedly anti-transgender legislations in the US.
In March, Republican Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed Senate Bill 2536 — the Mississippi Fairness Act — into law. In June, Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 1028 creating the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. Both acts are allegedly discriminatory against transgender athletes in public schools and colleges and state that “an athletic team or sport that is designated for females, women, or girls may not be open to students of the male sex, based on the student’s biological sex listed on the student’s official birth certificate at the time of birth.”
In Maine, the Act To Ban Biological Males from Participating in Women's Sports plans to achieve the same. As does Louisiana’s Fairness in Women's Sports Act. After a flurry of allegedly highly discriminatory “bathroom bills” in the US, the latest method being allegedly adopted by conservatives in the US is discrimination in sports. Hubbard’s selection in the Olympics thus provides not just representation for trans athletes, but also a precedent for their right to represent their gender and not one assigned to them at birth.
Who is Laurel Hubbard?
Hubbard, as per reports, will compete in the super-heavyweight 87-kg category. "I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC). Hubbard reportedly transitioned in 2012. At the time, the International Olympic Committee didn’t have any guidelines about transgender women competing in the games.
New Zealand authorities said that Hubbard, who netted 628 pounds in two separate lifts to qualify for the team, meets International Olympic Committee rules for testosterone levels, and has not changed her declared gender identity in the past four years. “We look forward to supporting her in her final preparations towards Tokyo,” said Richie Patterson, the head of Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand.
Her selection was made possible by updated qualifying requirements. As per Advocate magazine, under the rule change, athletes needed to compete in fewer events to qualify for the games. Previously, athletes needed to compete in six events through three calendar phases, but since so many events were canceled, the new rule states that athletes only have to participate in four.
A 43-year-old trans woman, Hubbard has reportedly been eligible to compete at Olympics since 2015, when the IOC issued guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below ten nanomoles per liter for at least 12 months before their first competition. NZOC’s CEO Kereyn Smith said Hubbard met IOC and the International Weightlifting Federation's selection criteria.
"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," Smith said. "As the New Zealand Team, we have a strong culture of... inclusion and respect for all."
"Laurel is a member of New Zealand’s Olympic team. We are proud of her as we are of all our athletes, and will be supporting her all the way," New Zealand’s Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson said in a statement.
“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end. But your support, your encouragement, and your ‘aroha’ [affection] carried me through the darkness,” said Hubbard in her statement. “The last 18 months have shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The ‘mana’ [honor] of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”