Laurel Hubbard has qualified to represent New Zealand at the next Olympics (whenever or wherever those happen) in women’s weightlifting.
Virtually no one would have paid any attention to this – weightlifting not being one of the three sports (cricket, netball, league) New Zealanders actually care about – if it weren’t for the fact Laurel Hubbard is a trans woman. The first, in fact, to qualify to compete at the Olympics, despite trans athletes being technically allowed to compete, under certain restrictions, since 2003.
Keep that in the back of your mind, yeah?
This is a tremendous achievement for her and if she’s in serious contention for a medal it’s great for New Zealand, right?
Except this is a pretty bad time to be a visible trans woman, and especially a visible trans woman in sports. What generously gets called “a debate” about trans women’s (never trans men’s, keep that in the back of your mind) participation in sport is nothing more or less than the wedge issue for organised transphobic activism, right after stirring up baseless moral panic about public bathrooms.
The farcical “arguments” offered are like most transphobia: rooted in bog-standard, basic sexism. You have to accept the idea that men are inherently faster, stronger, taller and more powerful than women; that testosterone is a magical wonder drug that confers superhuman powers on anyone who gets enough of it during puberty; that the chromosomes or genitals you’re born with are the primary factors determining if you’re good at sports or not.
The transphobia is also basic. It’s simply about insinuating, inferring and outright stating, from behind an army of newborn Twitter sockpuppet accounts, that trans women “are men” and for a trans woman to compete against cis women is thus “unfair”.
A picture is painted of a terrible world in which no cis woman ever wins any medals because trans women (dogwhistle: “cis men pretending to be trans to win all the medals”) “dominate” all the sports. Except … remember how trans athletes have been able to qualify for the Olympics since 2003? And it’s 2021? And Laurel Hubbard is the first?
So … where are all these cis men lining up to win all the medals if it’s so simple?
There is literally no basis for this fearmongering beyond that primary-school level, “boys have testosterone and that’s why they’re strong; girls have estrogen and that’s why they love babies” understanding of human biology. I shouldn’t have to explain why this is pretty much the opposite of any credible feminism.
So Hubbard’s achievement has been immediately framed in the context of that “debate”, and that’s incredibly sad and concerning. She and other trans women – and cis women who look “too butch” because that is an obvious side consequence of transphobic gender-policing – are literally put in danger by this rhetoric, not just denied the ability to live their lives to the fullest.
She is a trailblazer. She deserves to be counted among all the other people we hold up as Kiwi heroes because they overcame tremendous odds to be The First In The World, without the shadow of nasty, petty sneers and abuse from cowards who want to reduce womanhood to a quivering pair of ovaries, crying for the patriarchy to protect them.
And you know that they don’t even really care about sports, right?