Transgender Olympian could polarize opinion

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – US expert on trans rights and politics says New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics could inspire other trans athletes, but could also become a priority for conservative activists who oppose the expansion of LGBTQ rights and freedoms.

Dr Jami Taylor, professor of political science at the University of Toledo, said Hubbard could find herself in a dead end position even if she succeeds when she competes in the women’s 87 kilograms and over division.

The selection of Hubbard, who will make the 43-year-old New Zealander the first trans athlete to compete in the Olympics, has already drawn criticism from some conservative commentators.

“I suspect that we are going to see opponents of transgender rights structuring the Hubbard situation in such a way as to further their own ends,” Taylor said in an email to The Associated Press. “I think they’re going to have some success and I wouldn’t be shocked if the IOC and other sports bodies ended up tightening their policies if those policies were relatively permissive.

“In the United States, this has happened and will continue to happen at the state level until we have a policy at the national level.”

Hubbard’s participation in Tokyo is a milestone for trans athletes and perhaps an inspiration for others, Taylor said, but could also attract condemnation.

“I think it’s likely that a backlash will build on that,” she said. “We see it in various states of the United States

“The International Olympic Committee has also noted that its policies on trans participation are open to further scrutiny as new medical and scientific evidence emerges. “

Taylor said Hubbard was “now part of this body of evidence.”

“In some ways, Hubbard is in a dead end,” Taylor said. “If she wins any medals, her performance will certainly be used by her opponents to argue that trans women should be subject to greater restrictions, if not outright ban.”

Hubbard rarely gives media interviews and tends to avoid the spotlight. Inevitably, however, she follows her in every competition.

“In some ways these are the best Olympics she can compete in,” Taylor said. “The reduced capacity of the crowd and the restrictions on shouting due to COVID-19 will limit the ability of fans to affect their performance by booing and shouting. “

“It won’t be just the fans,” Taylor added. “I suspect she will receive a lot of hostile questions from reporters. . . particularly segments of the US and UK media that have been on the warpath against trans women in sport. “

Some critics of inclusion argue that transgender women have intrinsic physiology and strength benefits in certain sports. Some female athletes have cited this as calling for the exclusion of Hubbard, and the Conservatives have amplified it.

Taylor, who teaches in areas such as public policy and US politics and is a co-author of “The Remarkable Rise of Transgender Rights,” admitted that the inclusion of transgender women in sport involves complex issues.

“Gender transition alters some but not all of the biological factors that may contribute to the performance differences that exist on average between men and women,” Taylor said. “There are also gender biases that can negatively affect sports opportunities for many women and most trans women have not been confronted with this.

“Regardless of that, societal averages don’t compete, individuals do. And their circumstances vary. Individuals also have rights.

Hubbard, who won silver at the 2017 world championships and gold at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, will be placed fourth in the Olympic competition on August 2.

She competed in the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast, but suffered a serious injury that delayed her career.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement when announcing his selection earlier this week. “When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was told that my athletic career was probably over. But your support, encouragement, and aroha (love) brought me through the darkness.

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