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A transgender weight lifter’s presence at the Games prompts discussions over inclusion and fairness.

A transgender weight lifter’s presence at the Games prompts discussions over inclusion and fairness.
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A transgender weight lifter’s presence at the Games prompts discussions over inclusion and fairness.

A transgender weight lifter’s presence at the Games prompts discussions over inclusion and fairness.

TOKYO – When Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old New Zealand weightlifter, makes her first attempt in the women’s heavyweight competition on Monday, she will become the first openly transgender female athlete to compete in the Olympics.

Yet she will do so in the midst of a debate over whether she should participate in the Games.

Athletes, women’s sports advocates and fair sport activists have questioned whether Hubbard, who competed in men’s competitions before leaving the sport more than a decade ago, had an unfair advantage. Others believe that the binary categories of the Games do not take into account a diverse group of athletes.

Hubbard, who rarely speaks to the media, declined a request for comment. But in 2017, she told Radio New Zealand that she does not see herself as a standard bearer for trans athletes.

“It’s not my role or my goal to change people’s minds,” Hubbard said. “I hope they support me, but it’s not for me to force them to.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has protected Hubbard since his arrival in Tokyo. Kereyn Smith, the committee’s general secretary, called Hubbard a “pretty private person” and said she wanted her lifting to be the main focus of her concerns.

“She’s an athlete,” Smith said in an interview Friday. “She wants to come here and perform and fulfill her Olympic dream and ambition.”

Fans of trans athletes applauded his arrival.

“This moment is incredibly important for the trans community, for our representation in sport and for all trans people and non-binary children to see each other and know that sport is a place for them,” said Chris Mosier, a walker who in 2020 became the first openly transgender man to compete in Olympic trials in the United States.

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