‘Historic’ – the World Cup’s first out trans player

'Historic' - the World Cup's first out trans player

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Quinn plays for Canada against Nigeria
Quinn (right) played the full game in Canada’s 0-0 draw with Nigeria in Melbourne
Hosts: Australia and New Zealand Dates: 20 July-20 August
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website & app. Full coverage details; latest news

In their opening match against Nigeria, Canada midfielder Quinn became the first out transgender player at a Fifa World Cup. Like their style of play, it was done with minimal fuss.

Quinn is a key part of Canada’s midfield, their place as the midfield anchor crucial as the Olympic champions aim to add the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup trophy to their cabinet.

They played the full 90 minutes against Nigeria. The result was a goalless draw – but the Canadian number five’s role created history.

Quinn came out as non-binary in September 2020, dropping their old first name, asking to be known only by a mononym – a name composed of only one word – and saying they would use the pronouns ‘they/them’.

They have been an important figure for the national set-up since making their senior international debut in 2014, when they became team-mates with players who had shown them there was a future in football.

“Seeing the women’s national team and fortunately being able to interact with some of them was hugely important for me in understanding that there was a pathway for me,” they told Streets of Torontoexternal-link before this tournament.

Now, Quinn is looking to helping drive their country’s bid for glory just as they did at the Tokyo Olympics. However, the significance of their gender identity – especially given the ongoing and often fraught conversation about transgender athletes – cannot be ignored.

“It’s ground-breaking, historic,” says Har Johal, a Canadian freelance journalist who has covered the national team since 2012 and is working at her third World Cup.

“It shows people who watch sport that you can be non-binary and still play fantastic sport.

“Quinn is a great footballer and amazing person. Happy and comfortable, that’s all you want to be as a professional athlete to play your best.”

‘Role model’

The Canada starting XI against Nigeria
Quinn (top right) earned their 89th senior international cap against Nigeria

This is the latest piece of history made by the midfielder, who plays their club football for OL Reign in the top tier of United States club football.

Johal, who has covered Quinn with the Reign since their move there in 2019, says their coming-out was a barrier-breaking moment in Canadian sport and society.

“There was generally a very positive reaction to them coming out,” she says. “Canada is an open and welcoming country.

“Nothing changed from the national team perspective, fans loved them just as much before and as of now.

“The greater impact was on the public who don’t know as much about the players, or soccer in general. Quinn is now seen as a role model for LGBTQ+ people, so it is tremendous they felt that comfortable [to come out].”

That support has been borne out by the Canadian team at the World Cup.

“I’m really proud of what Quinn’s doing to raise awareness and make, I guess, this world a much more inclusive place,” manager Bev Priestman said.external-link Captain Christine Sinclair said: “We joke that we don’t deserve Quinn. They’re that good of a person.”

Quinn was also the first ever openly transgender Olympian, as they played for Canada at the Covid-delayed 2020 Games in Japan.

Canada’s opening fixture – a 1-1 draw with Japan – came several days before transgender woman Laurel Hubbard competed in the weightlifting amid much media fanfare, thus allowing Quinn to make some quiet history.

Louder history was made when Canada beat Sweden on penalties in the final, thus making Quinn the first out transgender person to win an Olympic medal. Now they are aiming to add a World Cup title to that roll of honour.

Quinn played at the 2019 tournament before coming out and if they play against the Republic of Ireland in Perth – likely to be in front of the back four, as the pivot protecting the defence – it will be their 90th senior international cap.

“Quinn is a great defensive player,” said Johal. “They are a fantastic, integral part for how they want to play.

“We saw that versus Nigeria, how difficult it was to get anything going against the Canadian defence.

“I think they will stay in the line-up. Canada’s defence is bread and butter, and Quinn is key to that.”

‘If they score, what a story’

Quinn speaking with Megan Rapinoe
Quinn, here speaking to the USA’s Megan Rapinoe, started the 2020 Olympic final, in Canada beat Sweden via a penalty shoot-out

Unfamiliarity with Quinn’s gender led to some negative reaction following the match against Nigeria. Searching their name on Google brings up “Does Quinn take testosterone?” as the number one suggestion.

Quinn said after coming outexternal-link they do not plan to increase their testosterone levels, nor medically transition through other methods, while playing professionally

“There will always be rubbish, people with closed minds who want to change laws,” Johal says. “I hope that when they see an athlete like Quinn, they are a regular and normal person.

“They love gardening, they’re a big gardener. A normal person with normal hobbies.”

Quinn has not shied away from the attention which naturally comes with being a high-profile transgender athlete.

They wore a hoodie saying ‘Protect Trans Kids’ before a Reign game,external-link and in a 2020 interview with BBC Sport expressed their concern about trans-exclusionary policies from other sporting governing bodies.

In June, they took the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) – the league in which they play for OL Reign – to task for “problematic” policies on trans players, which do not mention non-binary athletes.

“I hope the organisation can find space during their Pride celebrations this month to understand and educate themselves on the limitations of their policy,” Quinn wrote on Twitter.external-link

On the pitch, Quinn’s style of play is like their career – unfussy and effective, notable for the job done on the pitch rather than the noise off it.

Canada may need a bit more than that though to get through a tough Group B, which features co-hosts Australia alongside Republic of Ireland and Nigeria.

“I’d like to see more of them getting forward,” says Johal. “Canada needs goals from anyone.

“And if they [Quinn] score, what a story.”



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