Business owners apologise for cruel, transphobic posts about Olympic hero Laurel Hubbard

Laurel Hubbard smiles to the crowd at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics

Two Auckland-based businesses have this week apologised for transphobic social media posts about 43-year-old Olympic weightlifter Laurel Hubbard.

Just three years after suffering an injury she was told could be career-ending, Hubbard this week became the first openly trans woman to compete at the Olympics, representing New Zealand in the +87kg women’s event.

Despite three failed snatch attempts, Hubbard was lauded as a “hero” for competing amid the relentless debate surrounding her inclusion.

Yet not all social media reactions have been so positive.

Earlier this week, Steve Illicit, founder of Auckland streetwear brand Illicit Clothing posted an Instagram story poll alongside the question: “Who else feels embarrassed and ashamed this guy is competing in the woman’s weightlifting tonight for Aoteaoroa?”

The post was later shared by journalist David Farrier, who cited the poll as a “gentle reminder that trans hatred is very real”.

Only after being called out did Illicit issue an apology, writing: “I just wanted to address an Instagram post I made the other day. I made some hurtful comments about Laurel Hubbard in my Insta story and David Farrier picked up on that.”

“I appreciate David’s work, I’ve always followed him. I am not anti-trans by any means. I’m still coming to terms with the element of unfairness you see due to the natural biological advantages.”

“I acknowledge wholeheartedly and apologise for not using my platform while having the right time to address these points in a helpful way. My apologies again to Laurel, I’m sorry about that.”

The claim that trans athletes have “biological advantages” has long been disputed, and the International Olympic Committee last week acknowledged its rules surrounding hormone levels, which have predominantly impacted women of colour, trans and intersex athletes, are “not fit for purpose.” 

New regulations are set to be announced within the next two months.

Illicit’s apology comes just days after City Kickboxing co-owner Doug Viney posted a transphobic statement about Hubbard to his Instagram, which misgendered Hubbard.

Viney has since locked his Instagram account and deleted the comments.

In a statement released shortly afterwards, City Kickboxing trainer Mike Angove said the post was “mistakenly worded” and clarified: “We would like to apologise for the use of the wrong pronoun referring to Laurel Hubbard’s gender. City Kickboxing takes the importance of being an inclusive, diverse environment for all members seriously.”

Meanwhile, Hubbard has since given an interview explaining that she doesn’t believe her performance at the Olympics “should be historic”.

Clarifying further, she said: “I think as we move into a new and more understanding world, people are starting to realise that people like me are just people. What I hope is, if I am in a position to look back, that this will just be a small part of history, just a small step.”