Laurel Hubbard, a male-to-female transgender weightlifter, is set to make history as the first openly transgender person to participate in the Olympics.
Hubbard, 43, was selected to join New Zealand’s weightlifting team at the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. Hubbard is the oldest weightlifter to be competing in the games.
“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, according to The Washington Post.
Hubbard’s selection comes after much dispute and criticism over allowing biologically male athletes to compete in women’s sports. Hubbard transitioned in 2013, and became eligible to compete in the Olympics in 2015 after the International Olympic Committee changed its rules to allow for transgender people to compete against other athletes of the gender of which they identify.
Female athletes and others have sounded the alarm over allowing biologically male athletes into female competitions, asserting that biological males have significant advantages over female athletes that do not go away with transgender surgery and chemical treatment.
Complaints against Hubbard have reportedly become somewhat of a taboo subject. Former Olympic weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs said that athletes who complained about having to compete against Hubbard were being told to keep silent. As The Daily Wire reported in May:
Lambrechs blasted allowing biological men to compete against women in sports during an interview with Television New Zealand (TVNZ) last week, according to Reuters. Lambrechs comments come as the 43-year-old Hubbard is poised to become the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics, assuming they can qualify under the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) regulations for fitness and performance.
“I’m quite disappointed, quite disappointed for the female athlete who will lose out on that spot,” Lambrechs said. “We’re all about equality for women in sport but right now that equality is being taken away from us.”
“I’ve had female weightlifters come up to me and say, ‘What do we do? This isn’t fair, what do we do?’ Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do because every time we voice it we get told to be quiet,” she continued.
Hubbard has claimed that despite being born a male, Hubbard has no advantages over female athletes.
“Look, I’ve heard that and I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to the other competitors,” Hubbard said in 2017. “I don’t believe there is any fundamental difference between me and the other athletes, and to suggest there is is slightly demeaning to them.”
Hubbard competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before undergoing transgender surgery in 2013. In 2015, the International Olympic Committee announced it would allow a transgender female to participate in women’s competitions as long as the athlete’s testosterone measured below 10 nanomoles per liter for at least a year prior to competing.
Hubbard dominated female weightlifting after transitioning. Hubbard set four national weightlifting records for New Zealand at the 2017 Australian International & Australian Open in Melbourne. Hubbard also unseated Lambrechs as the top female competitor in their weight class.
Related: 5 Times Transgender Athletes Dominated Women’s Sports