Transwoman Laurel Hubbard is a big talking point at the Tokyo Summer Games. According to the IOC, the weightlifter from New Zealand is the first Olympic athlete to openly change her gender identity. Some competitors find this unfair.
Laurel Hubbard feels at home. It took the weightlifter from New Zealand decades to do this. “I am who I am. I am not there to change the world. I just want to be me and do what I do,” Hubbard said on public television in her home country in one of her rare interviews in late 2017.
Why are your statements so special? Hubbard lived with a male attribution for 35 years after she was born. But she is transgender, i.e. a person who does not feel that she belongs to the gender that was assigned to her at birth
Hubbard is 43 years old today. At the Olympics in Tokyo, she is the first female athlete to openly change her gender identity. And their participation also causes controversy.
For the International Olympic Committee (IOC) around President Thomas Bach, her start is a sign of openness and inclusion. But what does the competition say when it comes to the duel of tearing and bumping in the weight class over 87 kilograms on Monday? Isn’t Hubbard, who has a definite prospect of a medal, even at an advantage? After all, high-performance sport is about comparing performance.
“A bad joke” for the athletes
“I understand that nothing is as simple as following common sense for sports officials and that there are many imponderables in investigating such a rare phenomenon. But it feels like a bad joke to athletes,” she said Belgian Anna Van Bellinghen, who starts in Hubbard’s weight class, recently on the portal “insidethegames.com”.
Van Bellinghen stressed that she fully supports the transgender community and does not deny the identity of athletes. “However, anyone who has trained in weightlifting at a high level knows very well that this particular situation is unfair for the sport and the athletes,” she said. How strong can a woman be now?
A legal framework for the participation of transgender athletes is very difficult, “as there is an infinite variety of situations,” said Van Bellinghen. And it is probably impossible anyway to “find a completely satisfactory solution, no matter from which side of the debate.”
IOC prescribes testosterone levels
What is the legal framework in the Hubbard case? The IOC stipulates that the testosterone level of a person who has been declared a woman may be a maximum of 10 nanomoles per liter of blood for at least twelve months before the competition. The World Athletics Federation has issued a different value, and this is just half that, i.e. five nanomoles.
Sabine Kusterer is a weightlifter in the weight class up to 59 kilograms and was tenth in Tokyo. She is also the equal opportunities officer in the Federal Association of German Weightlifters. “I’m a little sorry that she can’t enjoy the games the way she deserves it,” said Kusterer of the German press agency on the debate about Hubbard, which at least reminiscent of the discussion about double Olympic champion Caster Semenya, who has intersex predispositions.
“In principle, I think it is a positive sign. It is difficult whether there is fairness in sport, since she is already a woman of advanced age,” explained Kusterer. “That already suggests that it has an advantage, but I’m more in favor of it starting somehow, because otherwise it would be discrimination. Under no circumstances should the sport put a stop to it, but find a solution so that all parties are happy . “
Can you please all parties? The IOC paved the way for transgender participants years ago. A new framework for dealing with trans people will come within the next two months, and the individual associations should then orientate themselves on this.
Hubbard now lifts 25 pounds less than he used to
The competition is likely to look at the bare numbers. Before her gender reassignment, Hubbard achieved a top duel of 300 kilograms in 1998, and in 2019 she still had a personal best of 285 kilograms.
“Laurel Hubbard is a woman and qualified under the conditions of the IMF (World Weightlifting Association). We must appreciate her courage and tenacity in actually taking part in the competitions and qualifying for the Games,” said IOC in Tokyo – Chief Physician Richard Budgett, referring to future guidelines.
The attention at Hubbard’s first Olympic appearance on Monday lunchtime will be great. She does not seek the spotlight, and certainly does not want to be perceived as a pioneer or convert anyone. “I don’t think I’m braver than others,” said Hubbard, who thanked the IOC for its commitment shortly before the start. “I’m just me.”