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Quinn earns respect as leader on and off the field for Canada and a role model

The Canadian women's soccer team is unanimous when it comes to its view of Quinn. "We joke that we don't deserve Quinn," captain Christine Sinclair said of the veteran midfielder. "They're that good of a person.
Canada's Quinn is pushed off balance by Nigeria's Onyenaturuchi Ucheibe (14) during second half soccer action during the national team celebration tour at Starlight Stadium in Langford, B.C., Monday, April 11, 2022. Quinn, who goes by one name, has won 89 caps for Canada (including 54 starts) with five goals and four assists. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The Canadian women's soccer team is unanimous when it comes to its view of Quinn.

"We joke that we don't deserve Quinn," captain Christine Sinclair said of the veteran midfielder. "They're that good of a person."

Quinn, who goes by one name, has won 89 caps for Canada (including 54 starts) with five goals and four assists. 

But the 27-year-old from Toronto is much more than a smooth midfielder who brings a sense of calm on the field and can spray the ball around to find teammates. In winning gold with Canada at the Tokyo Olympics, Quinn became the first openly transgender and nonbinary athlete to earn a medal at the games.

"I'm really proud of what Quinn's doing to raise awareness and make, I guess, this world a more inclusive place," said Canada coach Bev Priestman. "When you talk about why these players do things, it's a bigger purpose. I think that's really really important."

Quinn took to social media in September 2020 to share their truth, explaining at the time the decision came partially out of frustration at being portrayed "in society and social media and news … without my true identity."

"It's really hurtful over time and I think it does take a toll on you," Quinn told The Canadian Press at the time.

"I wanted to be my authentic self in all spheres of my life. And one of those is being in a public space. So that was one of the reasons behind it. Because I was tired of being misgendered and everything like that."

Quinn wanted to be "a visible figure for young trans folks or people questioning their gender, people exploring their gender."

"Because unfortunately when I was growing up, and even going through that process of figuring out myself in college, I didn't have those people in the public sphere to look up to really," they said back in 2020. "There are several trans athletes and there are amazing trans people in media and in politics but I just think those faces are not common enough. I want to be a visible trans person succeeding in my job so that younger trans folks could see that they did have an avenue to go and that they would have a future and career ahead of them."

The announcement made headlines around the world and prompted a statement from FIFA, the sport's world governing body.

"FIFA congratulates Rebecca Quinn for being out and proud, and we wish them continued success in their career and for the future," said the statement. 

Quinn has gone on to become a role model as well as an important voice on the team, serving as one of its player representatives.

"It's been incredible to see," said Sinclair.

There is much more work to do, given the legislation targeting transgender people that has been seen recently in the U.S.

Quinn calls it "a really difficult time for trans participation in sports." But they approach the matter "with a lot of optimism."

"I think that's unfortunately one of the only ways that you can approach it right now. With a lot of optimism. And the fact that although there's a lot of pushback right now, I do believe the trans community is going to push back and find their place in society," they said. "And in the years to come, these laws are not going to be in place and there's going to be more accessibility for young athletes to play the sports that they love.

"Because that's the most important thing. It's my belief that it's a basic human right to be able to play the sports that you love. And be who you want to be, for sure."

Since sharing their truth, Quinn says day-to-day life has been a lot easier overall.

"Being able to live authentically and be out is a relief every single day," they said. "There are definitely still hard days. I definitely still receive some really hurtful messages and comments on social media. I think that's just the reality of where we're at in society right now."

A "huge support network" on both club and national teams helps.

"I'm just being myself and living my life, which is a huge relief and a huge weight off my shoulders," they said.

A role model, Quinn recently partnered with GE Appliances Canada, a Canada Soccer sponsor, on a program called "See Them, Be Them," which allows young girl soccer players to apply for a "once-in-a-lifetime mentorship opportunity" with Quinn in the fall.

The goal is to inspire young players to stay in the game. Eight young players will be part of the mentorship program.

"I'm hoping that through this experience it'll just encourage some young players we have to continue on in soccer," Quinn said. "We've seen young players come up through the national team and make such a huge impact. We're now seeing pathways for younger players to go professional at an earlier age. So I think it's a really exciting time for women's sports and hopefully this opportunity is just another chance for younger players to see themselves and see the pathway they have, in order to encourage them to keep playing the sport they love."

Quinn was 14 when they made their debut in the Canadian youth program in 2010, graduating to the senior side four years later. Their soccer resume includes the 2012 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan, 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.

Quinn was also a member of the Canadian team that won bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and played in all six games at the Tokyo Olympics, starting five of them.

Quinn has overcome injury obstacles to get to Australia.

"It was definitely a difficult to start to the season," they said. "I felt like I couldn't catch a break really. I was going from injury to injury for the first, I guess, three months of the season so that was a tough one to swallow."

Quinn was drafted third overall out of Duke University by the Washington Spirit in 2018, becoming the highest Canadian ever taken in the NWSL draft.

At Duke, Quinn helped organize the Blue Devil team's first Pride Game and served on the executive board of the school's Athlete Ally chapter. According to its mission statement, the organization "believes that everyone should have equal access, opportunity, and experience in sports — regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression."

As a senior in 2017, Quinn was named ACC Midfielder of the Year, was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy (which goes to the top collegiate soccer player) and made the All-ACC First Team and the United Soccer Coaches First Team All-America.

After a stint with the Spirit, Quinn moved to France with Paris FC prior to the 2019 NWSL season before returning to North America with Seattle's OL Reign in July 2019.

Quinn comes from a supportive, sporting family.

Their father played rugby at Western and mother basketball at Waterloo while sisters Lauren (swimming, Western) and Jillian (a fraternal twin, soccer, Northeastern) also competed.

A veteran of long soccer trips, Quinn travels with a stuffed animal moose.

"It sounds kind of silly but I think keeping a couple of things that are comforting really help along the way," they explained. 


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2023

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press