Laurel Hubbard admits she doesn't know if the world is ready for a transgender weightlifter — but hope people will keep an "open mind" about her participation in high level competitions as a female athlete.
This week Hubbard claimed two medals at the Weightlifting World Championships in California, becoming the first New Zealand competitor to stand on the podium at that elite level.
But her success has provoked widespread controversy, with several coaches from competing nations questioning the right of the transgender athlete to be in the field, while social media users across the nation were also divided in their views.
It begs the question; Hubbard has won silverware for this country — but how long will it take for her to win acceptance?
The 39-year-old, who lived as a man for 35 years, hopes people will take a balanced view of what she admits is a complicated subject.
"I would say to those people it's a complex question," Hubbard told the Weekend Herald, when asked what she would say to those questioning her right to compete as a female.
"Obviously the policies put forward by the IOC and other organisations are evolving and perhaps they may change after I have competed. But I would ask people to keep an open mind and perhaps look to the fact that I didn't win, as evidence that any advantage I may hold is not as great as they may think."
Hubbard's emergence this year has made headlines across the globe, as the topic of transgender athletes in sport has come to the fore in recent years. No doubt Hubbard hopes for a degree of understanding, but she is also a realist about what is, for many, a polarising subject.
"The rules that enabled me to compete first went into effect in 2003," said Hubbard.
"They are known as the Stockholm consensus with the IOC but I think even 10 years ago the world perhaps wasn't ready for an athlete like myself ....and perhaps it is not ready now. But I got the sense at least that people were willing to consider me for these competitions and it seemed like the right time to put the boots on and hit the platform."
Hubbard broke a long silence yesterday. She hasn't done any interviews since she first came to prominence in March, refusing to respond to all the talk and conjecture about her participation. Hubbard also ducked media at the world championships. She left the stage quickly after the medal ceremony — where she gained on a silver in the snatch in the +90kg class, as well as another for her second place overall with her combined total of 275kg.
The Queenstown resident also didn't appear at the post event press conferences, and turned down several requests for media interviews later. But yesterday, on the lawns of the New Zealand Olympic Committee headquarters in Parnell, she finally fronted, obviously nervous but also engagingly honest and transparent.
While saying she was proud of her achievements, she admitted that the negative reaction to her presence at the competition had been difficult.
"I'm not going to say it wasn't hard," said Hubbard. "You would have to be a robot to not be affected by some of that and what people were saying. But I can't control what other people think, what they feel, what they believe and I'm not going to try. It's not my job to tell them what to think, what to feel or what to believe. All I can do is lift to the best of my ability and then let whatever happens, happen."
Several coaches at the championships were outspoken in their views about Hubbard, with American Tim Swords, who mentors world championship gold medallist Sarah Robles, saying that "Nobody wanted her (Hubbard) to win."
"Like I said, I don't want to pretend that I am a robot," said Hubbard, when reflecting on those kind of comments. "When you hear things it's natural to feel some kind of hurt. But I understand that in the heat of competition they don't want their athletes to be disadvantaged, or perhaps they don't want to feel they have been disadvantaged so they say what they say and that's the way it is."