First transgender woman to compete at Olympics

Laurel Hubbard (Photo: ABC News)

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will make history as the first transgender athlete to participate in the Olympics.

Hubbard who is 43-year-old, went through male puberty before transitioning in 2012. She has lived 35 years as a man.

International Olympic Committee guidelines issued in November 2015 states athletes who transition from male to female are allowed to compete in the women’s category without requiring surgery to remove their testes. But this is only if their total testosterone level in serum is kept below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months.

But according to The Guardian, recent research shows that people who have undergone male puberty retain significant advantages in power and strength even after taking medication to suppress their testosterone levels. Since transitioning and competing in international weight lifting competitions, Hubbard has won several elite titles.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support.”

—Hubbard

And the New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive, Kereyn Smith, said she’s welcomed on the New Zealand Olympic team.

“As well as being among the world’s best for her event, Laurel has met the IWF eligibility criteria including those based on IOC guidelines for transgender athletes,” she said. “We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play.

And as for Hubbard, she’s just really grateful for the support.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard said in a statement. “When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end. But your support, your encouragement, and your ‘aroha’ [affection] carried me through the darkness.

“The last 18 months has shown us all that there is strength in kinship, in community, and in working together towards a common purpose. The ‘mana’ [honour] of the silver fern comes from all of you and I will wear it with pride.”