Hubbard moment the biggest and most blatant injustice in Samoa XVI Pacific Games

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 July 2019, 8:52PM

The truth is this. We just cannot stop thinking about Feagaiga Stowers.

Having been chosen as Samoa’s flag bearer, this Pacific Games was supposed to have been her moment.

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.

The most heartbreaking part of this story is that her kiwi competitor is someone who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Hubbard had represented New Zealand as Gavin Hubbard in international competitions.

Yes he lifted against people like himself, boys and men that is, where he rightfully belonged. That was until he changed his mind and became a transgender. Many of us know the story. Hubbard’s story is one of many cases, where political correctness has allowed a blatant wrong to be accepted. Which is okay, I suppose, given the way the world is today. To each their own.

But where we have an issue, and where people in positions of power to right this wrong should act immediately, is when Hubbard denies the opportunity for women like Stowers to claim what is rightfully theirs.

Nothing could be further from the truth. 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.

We are talking about sports here. One of the values of sport is fairness. We cannot say that allowing a transgender to compete against women is fair. It is grossly unfair for women like Stowers, or all women, for that matter.

This is why we cannot stop thinking about Stowers and how gutted she must have been, at being denied the gold medal in the women’s 87kgs division by Hubbard, who lifted a total of 268kgs. Stowers lagged behind by seven kilos. Imagine that? Given Hubbard’s genes, think of how hard Stowers had to work to try and keep up. And she did. It’s an amazing achievement, still she lost the gold medal by seven kilos to a competitor who technically a man.

Ladies and gentlemen, we know what some people would say. In raising this issue, we accept people would call us names such as racist, discriminative, homophobic and what have you. We’re okay with that. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

But here is the thing, we should insist on the truth. Besides, it is upon the decisions we make today we establish the foundation for tomorrow. We need to think beyond Hubbard, we should be thinking about the precedence that has been set here. What happens when you have 10, 20 or even more transgender athletes wanting to compete against women?

It will be a tragedy of gigantic proportion for sport when this sort of carrying is allowed. We talk a lot about empowering women, this does not empower women. If anything, it is taking power away from them. It is robbing them of what rightfully belongs to them.

Which is why this needs to be addressed, sooner rather than later. We accept that the Hubbard case has has garnered international attention for some years now. And this is not the first time Stowers and other women lifters have been disadvantaged.

The worry is that if Hubbard is allowed to continue, there is risk that women will become discouraged to participate, because they will always be disadvantaged by naturally stronger opponents, who should be competing against men.

In some circles, some people will argue that Hubbard’s rights as an individual are being denied as a transgender. Well if that’s the case, what about the rights of other athletes? What about the rights of women to compete against other women? When we talk about creating a level playing field, the matter is quite simple. Women should compete against women, just as men should take on the men. Period.

When the matter first surfaced, the President of the Samoa Weightlifting Federation, Tuaopepe Jerry Wallwork, was quite firm. Said Tuaopepe: "A man is a man and a woman is a woman and I know a lot of changes have gone through, but in the past Laurel Hubbard used to be a male champion weightlifter.

"The strength is still there and I think it's very unfair, and for all females it's unfair. The situation may have been accepted by the IOC but that won't stop us from protesting, regardless of whether it's against one of our lifters or not. It's just very unfair.”

We couldn’t agree more. We believe Tuaopepe, and the Samoa sports fraternity, should not let this go. They should insist on fighting this for the sake of women athletes, the truth and fairness.

Ironically when the kiwi athlete was asked about competing against women, Hubbard responded: "I think you have to be true to yourself.”

Really? Well why cannot Hubbard do us all a favour then, be “true to yourself” and compete in the division where Hubbard rightfully belongs? What do you think?

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 15 July 2019, 8:52PM
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