Tiny Samoa starts a big ripple for women in sports

by Daphna Whitmore

The story of how the world awoke to a big injustice is starting to be told. 

The Pacific Games held this month in Samoa is another chapter. On the podium was Laurel Hubbard, the giant transgender weightlifter, wearing two gold medals and a silver standing above two Pacific Island women. With their silver and bronze medals, they were stony-faced. Feagaiga Stowers and Iuniarra Sipaia should have worn gold and silver. Missing from the podium was Charisma Amoa Tarrant, the woman who should have been placed third.

For over two years voices have been raised about the unfairness to women weightlifters competing against Laurel Hubbard, a former competitive male weightlifter.  Those voices have been ignored and shouted over. Women are told to stop being nasty and get to the back of the bus. 

Feagaiga Stowers is a remarkable young woman who was the flag bearer for Samoa at the Pacific Games. Mata’afa Keni Lesa, writing in the Samoa Observer

This is a young woman who has had to endure tremendous difficulties in her childhood, where she eventually entered the Samoa Victims Support Group, to end up where she is today. It’s an incredible story. Indeed, Stowers’ meteoric rise has proven there is hope for everyone. And she’s done everything possible to be on top of her game, where she deserves to be. This was until she stepped up on the weightlifting platform on Saturday where her hopes of clinching a Pacific Games gold – and that of a proud nation – were crushed by a fellow competitor, Laurel Hubbard.

Gender ideology teaches that Hubbard’s win was a brave and wonderful thing. To the non-believers, Hubbard is a male-bodied athlete who should not compete against females. 

Daniel Leo, a top NZ-born Samoan international rugby player, witnessing the travesty, has spoken up:

Our generation has allowed this to happen on our watch… is this what we want to be remembered for? We must right this wrong before one of our daughters or sisters gets seriously hurt. Come on Rugby… time to show we really care about our ladies!

Leo cannot unsee the injustice and clearly will not be muzzled by the gender ideology clergy:

Please don’t patronise me with that “bigotry” BS. I have many friends and family who identify as Fa’afafine – among the most respected people in our Samoan & Pacific societies – who I love & who I stand up for in their struggle for equality. This is not equality though.

Indeed,  in Samoa fa’afafine (third gender) people compete in sports but they are in the male divisions. Fa’afafine don’t muscle into female divisions. Jaiyah “Johnny” Saelua, who has been recognised by Fifa as the first transgender international footballer to play in the World Cup, points out “there are lots of fa’afafine in American Samoa that play soccer, and other sports, and even in other national teams in other sports. We are all given an equal opportunity to play sport.”

As Mata’afa Keni Lesa explains

Hubbard denies the opportunity for women like Stowers to claim what is rightfully theirs … Hubbard does not belong in the women’s competition. As a transgender, there are only two ways Hubbard should continue to compete. Hubbard could either step up against the men or the organisers of the Pacific Games, or any competition Hubbard enters, should introduce a new division for transgenders.

Samoa’s prime minister has spoken up too: “This fa’afafine or man should have never been allowed by the Pacific Games Council President to lift with the women.” He said. “I was shocked when I first heard about it.”

Is this just being cruel to transgender people who want to compete as women? Where does the line get drawn?  Should sportswomen turn the other cheek to accommodate the needs of transwomen? Is it a rare event? There are eight transgender players on Iran’s women’s national football team. There is your answer.

The rules which currently allow transgender athletes to compete in women’s divisions need to be changed. Samoa, a tiny Pacific island, is leading the conversation.