You know, we don’t really have to keep doing this every time the situation comes up.
Yahoo Sports posted a piece by Henry Bushnell on Friday, headlined, “A transgender weightlifter will make history at the Olympics. Is her inclusion fair?”
Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand is 43 years old and transitioned in 2012, beginning competing internationally in women’s events in 2017. She recovered from a career-threatening arm injury to make it to these Olympics. That’s in the piece, which lays out a lot of details, and discussion from experts, including a Yale endocrinologist who consults the IOC, and a transgender runner and physicist who studies competitive advantages.
And, yes, there are some transphobic quotes, too, like from Australian Weightlifting Federation chief Michael Keelan and a real tap-dance by Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen. Her quote, “I do believe that everyone should have access to sports, but not at the expense of others,” is certainly a choice for a kicker, and that choice is where the most glaring problem with the piece is — a problem shared by the headline, which makes it a big and important problem.
Starting by asking “is her inclusion fair?” and ending with “but not at the expense of others,” every thoughtful and deep-diving bit in between is diluted by the sensationalist suggestion that something is wrong here, that there may be an injustice that needs to be addressed, that maybe it just isn’t possible for a trans woman to compete on a level playing field with cis women.
Hubbard is a woman, and part of the reason she even got into this sport, long before transitioning, was because of some of her issues with gender dysphoria and trying to find where she could fit into the world in the body that she had. To question her very participation in the sport, at its highest level, finally in her own body, is disrespectful at best. She’s a woman, she’s at these Olympics, and she’s been competing internationally for five years, because the debate was settled — and it’s quite telling that the biggest whiners about the entire situation are people who want to advance their own position in the sport.
Is her inclusion fair? Try turning the question around. Would her exclusion be unfair? After putting in the same hard work as every other competitor? To get to a place where she can do things that 99.99999% of people in the world cannot do, regardless of gender?
The IOC and weightlifting’s governing bodies have come through with their answers. Continuing to ask now stinks of a bad-faith effort to discredit everything she’s done.