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Google search for “Timothy LeDuc” and all the headlines are the same: they could be the “first openly non-binary athlete to compete at a Winter Olympics” after winning the pairs’ title with Ashley Cain-Gribble at the 2022 U.S. Championships on Saturday.
Once again, mainstream media is using what might serve them as clickbait at the cost of further perpetuating singularized narratives. Our multitudes go through, beyond and with our gender. Who is LeDuc and what does this step towards the Olympics mean for them?
“My hope is that when people see my story, it isn’t focused on me and saying, ‘Oh, Timothy is the first out non-binary person to achieve this level of success in sport.’ My hope is that the narrative shifts more to, ‘Queer people can be open and successful in sports.’ We’ve always been here, we’ve always been a part of sports. We just haven’t always been able to be open,” they said in Saturday’s press conference.
Growing up in a conservative evangelical environment, LeDuc was surrounded by lies by their church claiming that they were an “abomination” for being who they are, with family members attempting to change their identity.
Although ice-skating offered a release in these in-survivable conditions, LeDuc’s skating partners and coaches in the gender-divided sport continued to impose the violence of the gender binary.
Given the hidden costs and expenses of equipment, LeDuc left competitive amateur skating in 2014 and joined Royal Caribbean, for the ice rinks on many of its ships.
As their contract ended, LeDuc was ready to give competitive sports another chance, and found Cain-Gribble.
They paired up in 2016, and their performances added to the legacy of challenging traditional norms of toxic masculinity and fragile femininity associated with the sport: from being taller than average competitors to how their outfits and presentation is perceived.
“We want to dedicate these performances and this title to all the people that felt like they didn’t belong – or were told that they didn’t belong – in this sport,” Cain-Gribble said at the conference. “We were told that, even when we teamed up.”