Trans women athletes may be facing unfair transphobic challenges in their respective sports, but they’re still out there accomplishing incredible feats, and that deserves to be celebrated. Here are eight women who are trailblazing the way for the next generation of trans athletes.
McLaughlin is a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces and a current MMA fighter. She is the second openly trans woman to have fought professionally in MMA following Fallon Fox who has since retired. Although she made her professional MMA debut in 2021, she is proving to be impressive and has a record of 1-0-0.
Telfer is a Jamaican-American track and field athlete and, in 2019, she became the first openly transgender athlete to win an NCAA title. Telfer won the Division II NCAA championship in the 400-meter hurdles as a senior at Franklin Pierce University in 2019. After her remarkable win that year, Outsports named her their Female Athlete of the Year.
Wolfe made history when she became the first trans woman to make Team USA as a reserve in the BMX freestyler, a sport only recently included in the Olympic Games. She is currently the third-ranked BMX freestyler in the United States and we’ll be sure to see more of her in the Olympics.
Hubbard is a New Zealand weightlifter who became the first openly transgender woman to compete at the 2020 Olympics. She was part of the New Zealand Olympic team to compete in the women’s +87 kilogram category. In 2018, she suffered a ruptured ligament in her arm and nearly retired but she managed to compete in 2019 and won two gold medals at the 2019 Pacific Games.
Thomas is an American swimmer and student at the University of Pennsylvania. She currently holds the fastest women’s times of the 2022 season in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events. Thomas beat two Olympic medalists and became the first-ever trans athlete to win an NCAA Division I title. She is currently working on making her Olympic debut in the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
Cooper is an American powerlifter who won the women’s 2019 national championship for bench press in the super heavyweight division. She is suing USA Powerlifting after it barred her from competition on the basis of her gender identity.
Petrillo is a visually impaired Italian track and field athlete who has won the Italian National Championships and had dreams to become the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Paralympics in Tokyo 2021. Unfortunately, even though she met the requirements for a start at the Paralympics, the Italian federation denied her participation by changing the classification with only weeks to the Tokyo Paralympics.
Ivy is a Canadian competitive cyclist and transgender rights activist. She became the first transgender world champion in track cycling when she won the UCI Masters World Track Cycling Championship in the Women’s Sprint 35–44 age bracket in 2018. She defended her title in 2019 and won making her a two-time master’s world champion. She uses her platform to raise awareness of transgender rights, especially in sports.