U.S. pairs figure skater Timothy LeDuc is the first openly “nonbinary” athlete to compete in the Winter Olympics, meaning he does not identify as male or female.
Openly gay LeDuc, standing at six-foot-one and rocking a beard, goes by “they/them” pronouns and claims he’s trying to break through gendered stereotypes within figure skating to achieve “authenticity.”
“We’ve all been socialized in the same way to believe there is a man and a woman and everybody is going to fit neatly into those categories, so I am also learning with everyone else,” LeDuc said, according to The Washington Post. “I understand there is [a need] to take time out to explain and help everyone understand, but I’m willing to do it and I’m happy to do it because I know it helps push the conversation forward and makes the paths of other queer and nonbinary people coming into sport maybe a little easier.”
“Sex and gender are different things, and also gender expression is different from gender,” the figure skater claimed. “Gender is more an internal sense of self as a man, woman, both or neither. Gender expression can be an extension of that, but it doesn’t always have to be. Yes, I have a beard, but in competition, I wear makeup. And for me as my experience with gender, I portray parts of masculinity and manhood, but I also feel a connection to femininity, [and] it’s just the process of letting that out and letting people see that.”
“I think people will focus too much on physical characteristics and focus too much on the gender binary and the sex binary, but what we know from science is people exist out of those binaries both in sex and gender,” the athlete added.
LeDuc and his figure skating partner Ashley Cain-Gribble say they’re taking on figure skating norms together. Cain-Gribble noted that she’s five-foot-six, which is generally tall for a female figure skater.
“I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I shouldn’t be in this sport because of the way my body is shaped,” she said. “But this is my body, and this is who I am. And it was really hard to accept that for a long time. … It has taken me a long time to get where I am and loving my body — and it’s not every day. I still have struggles.”
And then there are the “gender roles” in the sport, the pair discussed.
“There’s nothing inherently wrong with a romantic story being told on the ice, a Romeo-and-Juliet story being told,” LeDuc said. “The problem comes when that is centralized or seen as the standard for success and then anything that doesn’t fit that is seen as less than or second class.”
“Together, LeDuc and Cain-Gribble have tried to attack those standards in subtle ways,” The Post praised. “LeDuc still lifts Cain-Gribble, but they competed this year in matching shirts and long pants, and they both skate almost as much as the other as opposed to LeDuc standing around and hoisting Cain-Gribble in the air.”
LeDuc said he has the “title” as the “first nonbinary Winter Olympian,” but added, “I’m here as an athlete first.”
During the Summer Olympics, transgender BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe drew attention over an unearthed Facebook post that said, “My goal is to win the Olympics so I can burn a US flag on the podium.”
“One of the reasons why I work so hard to represent the United States in international competition is to show the world that this country has morals and values, that it’s not all of the bad things that we’re known for,” Wolfe claimed, following backlash. “I take a stand against fascism because I care about this country and I’m not going to let it fall into the hands of fascists after so many people have fought and sacrificed to prevent fascism from taking hold abroad. As a citizen who wants to be proud of my home country, I’m sure as hell not going to let it take hold here.”
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