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‘Women feel betrayed’: Online petition again transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s Olympic status gathers over 20K signatures

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The issue of transgender athletes in sports has been a divisive one – and again hit the headlines after thousands of sports fans signed a petition in opposition to transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard’s Olympics participation.

Hubbard, 43, was selected to represent New Zealand in this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, and is slated to become the world’s first transgender athlete to compete at the highest level of the sport some nine years after Hubbard transitioned from male to female in 2012 at the age of 35. 

Prior to that, Hubbard had competed and trained in male weightlifting since a teenager.

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The move has drawn scorn online, however, particularly amid claims that Hubbard’s performances as a male prior to their transition fell below the general standards for Olympic qualification – but has since become one of the top female weightlifters in New Zealand.

An online petition in opposition to Hubbard’s upcoming Olympic appearance, though, has garnered almost 22,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon and claims that the rules which currently allow Hubbard to compete – namely the fact that Hubbard identifies as a woman and has testosterone levels below the permissible amount – are unfair to similar athletes who were born female.

This completely ignores the physical advantages in speed, height, stamina and strength that a male-born athlete will have,” the petition states.

Women were not consulted and did not consent to this policy which will make a complete mockery of their sport.”

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Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard could be heading to the Tokyo Olympic Games © Reuters / Paul Childs
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Hubbard, who maintains an intensely private life, has rarely referenced the issue but in 2017 admitted that it is “instinctive to be defensive” on matters such as this.

When [people] are shown something that may be new and different to what they know, it’s instinctive to be defensive,” said Hubbard.

It’s not really my job to change what they think, what they feel and what they believe. I just hope they look at the bigger picture, rather than just trusting whatever their gut may have told them. I’m just me.” 

Critics, though, say that Hubbard has denied a female-born athlete an opportunity to compete at the Olympics and has an unfair natural strength advantage against other female competitors – with New Zealand Olympic weightlifter Tracey Lambrechs even going so far as to say that two gold medals should be awarded if Hubbard is victorious. 

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Laurel Hubbard (left) has been backed by Jacinda Ardern © Paul Childs / Reuters | © Jorge Silva / Reuters
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So many women feel betrayed,” the Daily Mail quoted a woman who knew Hubbard several years ago as saying.

[Laurel] should pull out of the team.”

This also seems to be the predominant opinion among those who back the petition.

If they are actually thinking about letting (him) compete against real biological females then they might as well let the real female athletes take steroids to even out the competition. Or the right thing to do is make a separate event for trans athletes simple,” suggested one person online.

It’s a f*cking joke and scam,” said another, while a third claimed that the situation is a “huge embarrassment for New Zealand“.



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