07 October 2020

‘It’s not just about the rainbows’: Canada’s transgender soccer star Quinn on the battle to increase visibility of LGBTQ community in sport, and beyond

Throughout this interview Quinn is referred to as ‘they/their’ to show respect around their use of  pronouns

Canadian soccer star Quinn says that celebrating the LGBTQ community in women’s sport is ‘not just about the rainbows’ and explains why it is so ‘crucial’ to increase transgender visibility.

The 25 year-old defender, who has earned 57 caps for Canada, announced publicly last month that they were transgender in a powerful Instagram post.

After years of battling ‘constant transphobia,’ they have now realised how they can use their sporting platform to help ‘represent, advocate and increase’ trans visibility, not just in sport, but as a whole. 

The star from Toronto believes there was never a ‘right time’ to come out, but has not looked back since.

They told NewsChain: "I didn’t ever feel like there was a right time, but I think I had just gotten to the point where I was so confident in myself and who I was, (while) understanding that there was going to be some push back and some scrutiny and to be able to handle all of that.

"It took years of my life to be able to deal with the constant transphobia that I faced, just operating on my own, let alone having this world pressure and this world of opinion on me and who I am.

"I think it’s so crucial to have more trans representation and to have more trans visibility, and so I think that was definitely one of the main reasons why I wanted to be so public.

"I just wanted my identity to be respected every single day in the media when talking about my football. I wanted to be able to use my platform to speak about trans issues and to advocate for trans folks.”

Transgender people are people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth, Quinn was assigned female at birth.

Quinn, who has also played for their national side in the 2019 World Cup, is eligible to compete in women’s soccer because they ‘do not plan to increase their testosterone levels nor medically transition through other methods while playing professionally’.

They have recently moved to Europe to continue their soccer career after signing for Swedish club Vittsjö GIK on a three-month loan from National Women’s Soccer League side OL Reign.

They have been out to their personal circle, including their Canadian teammates before they announced publicly that they were trans.

Since revealing the news to the public they have felt ‘overwhelmed’ but that it’s a ‘crucial’ time to ‘advocate for trans’. 

They said: "It’s been a little overwhelming at times, I did and I didn’t think it would get as much response as it has. 

"It’s a bit of a contrast to me, I’m like ‘I’m just the same person that I’ve been living my whole life and it’s such a point of conversation', but at the same time I do understand that there isn’t that representation and education in the world about trans folks unfortunately.

"So I think this is such a crucial opportunity and time to have these conversations and to advocate for trans.

"It was difficult for me to not have my identity represented being a public figure and being talked about in the media. Misgendering trans is hurtful to me every time it happens in the media.

“So yeah it’s been overwhelming in the media sense for sure, I’m still faced with ignorance in that sense and I know that people are trying and the media are trying."

But they expressed that sometimes having conversations with people who are uneducated can be ‘difficult at times’. 

Quinn has scored five goals for Canada since making their senior debut in 2014 (Instagram: Quinn)

They believe that women’s soccer in the US has been a place of ‘acceptance’ for ‘queer folks’, but that the ‘conversations’ surrounding it remain limited. 

And in terms of women’s football as a whole, they believe that it’s ‘an accepting space’ for trans, but that it still has a long way to go. 

They said: "I think women’s football is an accepting space and in some senses, it’s not. I wouldn’t say that it’s a perfect run and I think there is still a lot of progress that needs to be done. 

"But yeah I think when we look at trans sports around the world we need to focus on the regulations that are currently being put in place, I know World Rugby right now are trying to prohibit trans women from competing in sports.

“So I think it’s hugely concerning when we have sports as a space where we’re not including everyone, and so I think we need to go towards those conversations and those regulations on how we are excluding trans people at youth level and at the professional level.”

They also admit that there is more that needs to be done other than leagues just putting on ‘Pride’ games to celebrate the LGBTQ community. 

They added: "I also want to use sports as a space for advocacy for other rounds, even just looking at the Challenge Cup in the NWSL we had a Pride game (during the summer).

"LGBTQ people are being celebrated but it almost seems like we are not talking about what still needs to be done. We feel so comfortable with the diversity of sexualities on our team but do we really feel comfortable with the differences in gender identity?

“It’s at a point where we need to use those opportunities to have these conversations and understand ways we can do better, it’s not just about the rainbows.

“We are celebrating people in the LGBTQ community who are being most accepted and are the most digestible maybe to the general audience. But we are not putting enough focus on the most marginalised and those would be trans women of colour.”

Quinn believes that people need to ‘educate’ themselves (Zuma Press/PA Images)

But aside from the LGBTQ community, they believe that as athletes, they ‘should be celebrated’.

They said: “I think that athletes should be celebrated, I think that’s why we all play sports, is we are celebrating our bodies and the things that our bodies can do. 

"I think that’s what’s really incredible, I think it’s incredible the work I can do on the pitch every single day and that should be celebrated.”

Despite sport being ‘near and dear’ to their heart, the ‘conversation’ about trans’ ultimately goes ‘beyond sports’. 

They said: “Sports is such a huge part of my life and it has been since I was a child and so I want to advocate so people can continue to play sports and can grow up with sports being such an integral part of their lives.

"But I also want to use my advocacy outside of it because I know in our society we have trans protections that are being contested every single day. ”

As a result, Quinn is determined to use their platform to help increase trans visibility and urges people to ‘start educating themselves’. 

They said: "I have a point of privilege in myself that I can continue to play the sport and I have the platform that I do because I am accepted in my sport.

"But for a lot of trans folks that’s not the case and I think it’s looking for other voices, not just my own, and listening to trans experiences and listening to those voices and how we can make differences.

“I would just encourage those people to start reading and start educating themselves and start following trans folks on social media and really digest those voices.”

Quinn, who was part of Canada’s bronze-winning squad at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, is more motivated than ever to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics next summer. 

They said: “When I was growing up I wanted to be on that Olympic podium and so that’s a childhood dream of mine to get on top of that podium."

But they will have to wait a little longer before they can have a training camp to start preparations due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they are hoping to ‘get back in the swing of things’ soon. 

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