Transgender athlete Chelsea Wolfe could make history by being the first transgender athlete to compete on a U.S team at the Tokyo Olympics.
Despite some backlash and ongoing debates surrounding transgender people and sports, she took to her Instagram to express her excitement over being chosen for the USA BMX team.
BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will be traveling to the Tokyo Olympic Games as an alternate, and in doing so, will become the first transgender Olympian on Team USA.
Wolfe will be the first transgender Olympian in Team USA history.
She qualified for the position by earning a fifth-place finish at the World Championships but will only compete at the Olympics if either qualifying rider Hannah Roberts or Perris Benegas drop out.
In an Instagram post, Wolfe reacted to the historic accomplishment.
“It’s taking a bit to fully register that after so many years of work we finally have the @teamusa BMX freestyle squad for the @olympics and that after so much work and overcoming so many obstacles that I’ve qualified to represent the United States as the alternate rider,” she wrote.
“I am positively a different person than when I set off on this journey and I’m so grateful for every experience along the way and I’m so excited and honored to keep working so I’m ready to shred in Tokyo in case I’m needed.”
Chelsea Wolfe was born and raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, and began racing competitively when she was just 6 years old.
When she turned fifteen, she traded in her regular bicycle for a trick bike and started riding freestyle. For many years, she competed with male athletes, hiding her identity as a trans woman.
“I had this fear that if anyone knew that I existed, even some of my idols… I was scared that they would reject my existence,” Wolfe, now twenty-six, said.
After going public with her gender in 2014, Wolfe said that she was mostly welcomed by fellow riders. However, there were some who tried to undermine her.
She said some athletes believed she would have an unfair advantage.
“I have to laugh about that,” she said, “What’s annoying about it is that no matter how hard you work as a trans athlete, people are still going to say, ‘Oh, you have your accomplishments because you’re trans’.”
The inclusion of trans athletes in sports has become a controversial and talked-about subject among both professional and hobbyist athletes. Critics of the idea argue that being born male provides a physical advantage, even after they have transitioned.
Florida recently dominated headlines when they made it illegal for a trans athlete to compete in their gender’s team, from high-school level up to professional level.
Wolfe shared her worries on her instagram…
“As a kid like any other I dreamed of one day becoming a professional athlete in my sport,’ Wolfe wrote on Instagram earlier this week,” But as a young trans girl, I feared that I would never be welcome as one of them. That a girl like me could never be a professional athlete.”
She continued, declaring she “was faced with the realization that the person who I needed to see when I was younger didn’t exist yet because I was yet to become her.”
Officially, male-to-female transgender athletes have been allowed to compete in the Olympics since 2016.
The IOC guidelines specified that they must show their testosterone levels have remained low enough for a year. When asked, the IOC said it was up to international sports federations to decide eligibility rules for specific sports and events.
Transgender athletes are not required to gain legal recognition of their gender identity nor undergo anatomical surgery to be eligible to compete. Nevertheless, many leading sportswomen have condemned their inclusion, arguing that they have greater muscle mass, bone strength, and lung capacity.
Other transgender athletes set to compete in Tokyo include the New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who caused mass controversy at last year’s Pacific Games. According to Athlete Ally, U.S marathon runner Megan Youngren and Brazilian volleyball player Tifanny Abreu are also running for the Tokyo Games, an LGBT+ athletics advocacy group.
At least 5 states in the U.S have considered laws that inhibit children from playing in leagues that do not align with their biological sex at birth while in education.
Wolfe criticized such moves as sickening, accusing conservative U.S lawmakers of trying to “stop elite trans athletes from existing in the first place by preventing us from getting into sports at all.”
She trains most days, for around 3 hours on average, fitting it around her job at her local grocery store.
She has one more major competition in Hiroshima, Japan in April before the USOC decides who it will send to the Olympics for Team USA.
“My goal is to get as far as I can go”, said Wolfe, “And if that means gold at the Olympics, then cool. But if not, I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished along the way.”