There has been much discussion in certain corners of social and traditional media about the presence of transgender athletes at the Olympics currently taking place in Tokyo.
And yet under the radar, the first out transgender athlete has already been helping their country bid for a medal over the past week. Soccer star Quinn has helped fire Canada into the quarter-finals of the women’s football tournament, where they will face Brazil on Friday.
The 25-year-old is a key part of this Canadian team, capable of playing in central defense or in a holding midfield role, and has 65 caps for their country – paltry in comparison to the 301 amassed by captain Christine Sinclair, but a sign of their importance nonetheless.
They were part of the Canadian side who won bronze in Rio 2016, as well as being in the squad for the 2019 World Cup.
The OL Reign player is also notable in that they are non-binary, and by virtue of the early start to the football competition – two days before the opening ceremony – became the first trans athlete to compete since Olympic rules were changed ahead of the 2004 games to allow people to take part in sports based on their gender identity, albeit with strict rules and caveats.
Thanks to the early start for the football competition, Quinn scooped history away from trans woman weightlifter Laurel Hubbard and non-binary skateboarder Alana Smith – but on social media after the game, they struck a more somber, balanced note.
Writing on Instagram after the 1-1 draw with hosts Japan in Canada’s first game, Quinn said: “First openly trans Olympian to compete. I don’t know how to feel.
“I feel proud seeing ‘Quinn’ up on the lineup and on my accreditation. I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world.
“I feel optimistic for change. Change in legislature. Changes in rules, structures, and mindsets. Mostly, I feel aware of the realities. Trans girls being banned from sports. Trans women facing discrimination and bias while trying to pursue their Olympic dreams. The fight isn’t close to over, and I’ll celebrate when we’re all here.”
By coming out publicly with what was already known to their family and friends, Quinn was able to dispense with what they called “essentially two different lives”.
They told the BBC in November: “It’s really difficult when you don’t see people like yourself in the media or even around you or in your profession. I was operating in the space of being a professional footballer and I wasn’t seeing people like me.
“I really didn’t like feeling like I had a disconnect between different parts of my life, being a public figure, and so I wanted to live authentically.”
As arguably the most high profile transgender player in world football – male, female or non-binary – Quinn has not shied away from the attention which naturally comes, wearing a hoodie saying ‘Protect Trans Kids’ before a Reign game, and expressing their concern about trans-exclusionary policies from other sporting governing bodies before the Olympics.
“I think it is really concerning,” they said about World Rugby’s intended ban on trans women playing contact sport, or World Athletics’ strict rules on testosterone levels, which have seen several female athletes – including Caster Semenya – effectively banned from competing.
“I think that we need to focus on why we’re in sports in the first place and the celebration of the excellence of our bodies. I’m just another person doing the thing that I love to do and I get the privilege do that every day on the pitch.”
With Quinn patrolling the midfield, Canada have made solid if unspectacular progress to the football knock-outs, drawing with Japan and Great Britain either side of a narrow victory over Chile to seal second in their pool.
That is how Quinn plays, and how they like to be – unfussy, effective, notable only for the job done on the pitch rather than the noise off it.
A template, perhaps, for transgender footballers and athletes in future.
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