Skier Timothy Leduc: The first non-dual athlete to compete at the Winter Olympics

American snowboarder Timothy Leduc will become the first non-dual athlete to compete at the Winter Olympics when he takes to the ice with partner Ashley Kane-Gribble on Friday as new guidelines aim to make future Games more inclusive of transgender athletes.

LeDuc, who uses the gender-neutral pronouns they and they, was also the first openly gay athlete to win gold in an American duo event at the National Championships in 2019.

About 35 LGBT athletes are competing in this year’s Winter Games in Beijing – a record for any Olympic Games.

The Summer Games in Tokyo, held just six months ago due to Covid delays, have seen new horizons opened for transgender and non-binary athletes. New Zealand’s Laurel Hubbard became the first transgender athlete to compete in the Games, and Canadian soccer player Quinn became the first transgender and non-binary medalist as their team won the gold medal.

New diversity guidelines announced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in November aim to make the Games more inclusive by ending reliance on testosterone levels to determine which athletes are eligible to compete in male or female events.

Instead, they detailed 10 general topics (including inclusion, fairness and harm prevention) that sports federations can use to define competition categories. “[It] “What we really care about is the outcome,” Richard Budgett, the medical and scientific director of the International Olympic Committee, said at a press conference in November 2021.

“You don’t have to choose between who you are and the sports you love,” Liz Ward, director of programs for LGBT charity Stonewall, told FRANCE 24.

“We welcome the IOC’s latest framework on equity and inclusion. It puts transgender and intersex people at the center of decision-making about their participation in sport.”

Before participating in the 2021 Olympics, soccer player Quinn announced that he is using gender-neutral pronouns and adopting his nickname as a mononym. In the world of sports, “I consider perhaps one of the most understandable versions of what it means to be trans,” Quinn told the club’s website in October 2020.

While not all transgender athletes undergo medical or surgical procedures for gender reassignment, those who do could face harsh penalties under current IOC guidelines, which were introduced in 2015 and are still in effect at this year’s Beijing Olympics.

Typically, those who transition from female to male can compete in male events “without restrictions” where they are not perceived as having an unfair competitive advantage.

But athletes transitioning from male to female must declare their gender identity for at least four years prior to competition and demonstrate that they have had a total testosterone level of less than 10 nanomols per liter of blood (nmol/l) for 12 months before and during any event. The competition.

While males have higher levels of the hormone than females, the “normal” ranges for each sex are disputed by experts.

Human Rights Watch considered the practice of “sex tests” by female athletes to prove their eligibility to compete, an “unjust and unnecessary” violation of their right to privacy and dignity.

The testosterone rule means that intersex athletes, such as South African sprinter Caster Semenya and Indian sprinter Dhoti Chand, have been excluded from competing at the highest levels of their sports.

Athletes were born with male and female characteristics at birth but raised as women, and testosterone levels have both been judged too high to compete in female events.

In 2018, World Athletics introduced rules for intersex athletes competing in races between 400 meters and one mile, forcing Semenya to take testosterone-reducing medications or prevent him from competing.

Old-school attitudes in ‘every sport’ The ICO hopes the new guidelines, to be introduced in March 2022 on the basis of selection for each Olympic sport, will make the Games more inclusive.

But in figure skating, questions of gender extend far beyond who can compete. The sport has traditionally adhered to strict gender roles that define what competitors can wear and romantic ballads typically played into male and female actions. This is the first year that skaters have competed in the “ladies” category instead of the “ladies” category.

There’s also still a taboo around LGBT snowboarders, as we saw when French snowboarder Guillaume Céziron went gay in an Instagram post in May 2020.

A little over 18 months later, he skated into the couples dance routine at the Finland Cup with his partner Gabriela Papadakis. “The French are elegant, but cool. “The partner is gay and can’t be hidden,” former international figure skating judge Aleksandr Vidinin told MatchTV, after their performance.

“[His comment] Olympic choreographer Benoit Richaud told France 24, “A lot of people are gay in our sport. It’s important to show the younger generation that it’s normal and not be hidden.”

Cizeron and Papadakis have since gone on to win their first Olympic gold at this year’s Games, and Cizeron was one of nine openly competitive LGBT skaters, including LeDuc.

Despite the growing presence of LGBT people, the fact that the sport now only has its first non-binary Olympic competitor “shows how old-school we are,” Richa said.

“But let’s be real – it’s not just snowboarding, it’s probably every sport.”

A ‘Catalyst for Change’ Challenging gender stereotypes is something LeDuc and their partner Cain-Gribble were keen to do, even before knowing LeDuc would be the first non-binary competitor at the Winter Olympics.

The pair often perform in identical uniforms – dressed in pants – and eschew the traditional male and female roles in their choreography.

“It has nothing to do with Ashley marrying someone else… (or) being gay. It had to do with both being strong and amazing athletes, and that we didn’t want to cut back on either of them,” Leduc told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a pre-Games interview.

Richaud agrees that there is room for a “more modern approach” to snowboarding that challenges traditional definitions of beauty and grace. Doing so on his own has been a success – Kaori Sakamoto skated her choreography to win the bronze medal in the 2022 women’s free skating on Thursday.

LeDuc and Cain-Gribble will find out if they win a medal on Friday. But for some, their gaming impact has actually been beneficial.

“It was inspiring to see so many athletes speaking out about LGBT rights at both last year’s Olympics and this year’s Winter Olympics,” Ward said. “We are very excited to see athletes like Timothy Leduc excel in the sports they love while making history along the way. Sport has always been a powerful catalyst for change.”

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More