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Canadian soccer player makes history as first openly trans athlete to medal in the Olympics

Canada’s Quinn controls the ball during a women’s semifinal soccer match against United States Monday in Kashima, Japan. (Andre Penner/AP)

For the first time, an openly transgender or nonbinary athlete will win a medal in the Olympics, with Canada’s Quinn writing that it’s “sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world.”

After beating the United States, Quinn and the Canadian team will play Sweden in the gold medal round, assuring them of finishing with at least a silver. Quinn had not yet come out when the midfielder and team won bronze in 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“[I’m] getting messages from young people saying they’ve never seen a trans person in sports before,” Quinn told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. after the 1-0 victory. “Athletics is the most exciting part of my life. … If I can allow kids to play the sports they love, that’s my legacy and that’s what I’m here for.”

Quinn told of a jumble of emotions as the Games were about to begin.

“I don’t know how to feel,” Quinn wrote in an Instagram post on July 22, just as the Tokyo Olympics were beginning. “I feel proud seeing ‘Quinn’ up on the lineup and on my accreditation. I feel sad knowing there were Olympians before me unable to live their truth because of the world.”

The Tokyo Games have at least 163 LGBTQ out athletes participating by Outsports’ count, more than three times the number in the Rio Games. The Tokyo Games are the first to have a Pride House — a more inclusive environment for Quinn and others — officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Transgender athletes have been allowed to participate in the Olympics since 2004, with their numbers steadily increasing. Laurel Hubbard, a New Zealand weightlifter, was considered a medal contender and the first transgender competitor in individual sports but did not complete any of the first three lifts in the 87-kilogram competition Monday.

Quinn is no stranger to soccer fans, playing at Duke and for OL Reign and Washington Spirit. They came out in an Instagram post in 2020, describing the experience as “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.”

The hope, Quinn wrote, was “to be visible to queer folks who don’t see people like them on their feed. I know it saved my life years ago. I want to challenge cis folks (if you don’t know what cis means, that’s probably you!!!) to be better allies. It’s a process, and I know it won’t be perfect, but if I can encourage you to start, then it’s something.”

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As the Olympics were beginning, Quinn was filled with hope that attitudes toward trans people, particularly those in sports, will rapidly evolve.

“I feel optimistic for change," they wrote on Instagram. “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.”

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