Quinn: First out trans Olympian isn’t just thinking about medals at Tokyo 2020


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But at Tokyo 2020, ​the star athlete known by the single name Quinn isn’t just thinking about medals.

After Monday’s semifinal success — Canada’s first win over the United States Women’s National Team in 20 years — Quinn, who uses they and them pronouns, told CBC Sports that they’ve been “getting messages from young people saying they’ve never seen a trans person in sports before.”

“Athletics is the most exciting part of my life and it brings me the most joy.

“If I can allow kids to play the sports they love, that’s my legacy and that’s what I’m here for.”

With the help of Quinn, Canada beat the United States in the women's football semifinal on  August 2.

Quinn’s mother ​Linda played basketball at the University of Waterloo in Canada, while their father Bill played rugby at the University of Western Ontario.

Quinn, who plays for Seattle OL Reign in the NWSL, made their debut for Canada in 2014.

The 25-year-old has since made 68 appearances for their country, including winning a bronze medal with the team in Rio in 2016 — but at the time they ​were not publicly known to be trans.

Fast forward to 2021 and on July 21, Quinn became the first out trans athlete to compete at an Olympic Games.

“First openly trans Olympian to compete. I don’t know how to feel,” they wrote in a post on Instagram.

“I feel proud seeing “Quinn” up on the line-up 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.”

Quinn is a dynamic midfielder who has been pivotal in opening up the play for Canada. They have started four out of five at these Olympic Games, including the semifinal against US, and are sure to play a significant role in the final.

Goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé has been crucial to Canada’s success so far and the team will be looking to record international goalscorer Christine Sinclair — in both men’s and women’s football — and her leadership as captain to help them walk away with the gold.

Players of Team Canada pose for a team photograph prior to the semifinal against the United States.
READ: Skateboarder is youngest medalist at Olympics in 85 years

This is not the first time Quinn has made history.

After playing football ​in college at Duke ​(or “soccer,” as it’s known there) from 2013-17 they became the highest-drafted Canadian player in NWSL history when the Washington Spirit picked them third overall in 2018.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been billed as the most inclusive Games to date, with Outsports reporting in July that there would be at least 180 out LGBTQ+ Olympians in Tokyo and at least four ​athletes who are out ​and either trans or non-binary.

In Rio, ​the number of out LGBTQ+ athletes was just 56 and there were no out transgender athletes​. ​It was a 2004 ruling from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that first formally allowed trans athletes to compete.

Quinn is joined by history maker Laurel Hubbard, the first out transgender woman to compete in the Olympics.

Hubbard, a weightlifter from New Zealand, failed all three of her snatch lift attempts​, including one at 120kg and two at 125kg, meaning she was no longer in contention to win a medal. After her attempts she waved to the crowd and bowed before she walked off stage.

There has been much debate about the inclusion of transgender athletes in the Games, with the IOC saying that they will review guidelines for trans athletes after Tokyo 2020.

“I am not entirely unaware of the controversy which surrounds my participation at these Games,” Hubbard said after competing on Monday.

“And as such, I would particularly like to thank the IOC for, I think, really affirming its commitment to the principles of Olympism and establishing that sport is something for all people. It is inclusive, accessible.”

Canada's midfielder Quinn is marked by USA forward Lynn Williams (R) during the Olympic semi match.

‘They have embraced change’

Team USA skateboarder Alana Smith, who identifies as non-binary, ​competed in Tokyo, and fellow American Chelsea Wolfe, ​who is trans, was in Tokyo as an alternate for team USA’s BMX team.

Canadian midfielder Quinn ​shared on Instagram in September 2020 that they were trans. Quinn has since been vocal about their personal journey, saying they want to be a role model for future generations of athletes to feel that they can compete as their ​authentic selves.

“I know for me it’s something I’ll be doing over again for the rest of my life. As I’ve lived as an openly trans person with the people I love most for many years, I did always wonder when I’d come out publicly,” said Quinn.

“Instagram is a weird space. I wanted to encapsulate the feelings I had towards my trans identity in one post but that’s really not why anyone is on here, including myself.

“So instead, I want to be visible to queer fo(lks who don’t see people like them on their feed. I know it saved my life years ago. I want to challenge cis folks […] to be better allies.”

​Cis, or cisgender, is a term that refers to people whose gender is aligned with the sex they were assigned at birth.

Quinn has said that Canada and their teammates have welcomed their transition, saying on Instagram that “they have embraced change and turned into uncomfortable conversations and I love them for it.” ​

Canada will be aiming for their first Olympic gold medal in women’s football on Friday when they face Sweden.

The final has been moved to a later kick-off time and switched to a different venue over heat concerns.

The match had been due to take place at 11 a.m. (local time) on Friday in Tokyo but both teams expressed concerns over heat and humidity.

Organizers confirmed on Thursday that the gold medal match will now take place at 9 p.m. (local time) in Yokohama.

The change also means that the men’s bronze medal match between Mexico and Japan will now kick off at 6 p.m. (local time) at the Saitama Stadium.

“In order to continue to provide the best possible conditions for the players, and having taken into consideration the impact of weather conditions at the Olympic Stadium over the last few days, it has been confirmed that this match (Olympic women’s football final) will now take place at 21:00 at the International Stadium Yokohama,” read a Tokyo 2020 statement.

Sweden is aiming to go one step better than the 2016 Games when they lost 2-1 to Germany in the final.

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