Soccer star Quinn on why Canada will be the team to beat at the World Cup

The athlete talks mentorship, trans rights and coming into the Women's World Cup as the gold medal-winning team

There’s never been this much attention on the Canadian women’s soccer team before. That’s partially because they’re heading to the FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand on July 20, partially because the country is launching a long overdue professional women’s soccer league in 2025 — and partially because of Quinn. The midfielder made headlines in 2021 — for becoming the first out trans, non-binary athlete to win an Olympic gold medal — and hasn’t stopped since then, whether it’s for advocating for trans rights in sports, speaking out about pay equity with Canada Soccer or scoring big with the National Women’s Soccer League. 

And in the fall, Quinn, who uses they/them pronouns, will be taking their influence to the next level with a one-on-one mentorship opportunity for eight 13-17 -year-old girls and gender diverse soccer players called the GE Appliances See Them, Be Them initiative

“It’s so important for young soccer players to have role models in sport. Seeing the women’s national team and fortunately being able to interact with some of them, that was hugely important for me in understanding that there was a pathway for me to then become a national team player and a professional athlete,” they say. 

Quinn says that pathway was “relatively easy” for them — they joined their provincial team, then the youth national team and continued on to college soccer in the United States before getting a call up to the national team quite early on. They also say they had support throughout the process; the athlete attended Havergal College and Quinn says teachers and staff made sure that missing school due to obligations with the youth national team didn’t cause them to fall behind. 

But despite that support, Quinn says there were still hardships — and that they plan on sharing those hardships with the players they’ll be mentoring so they’re more prepared. “Being a transgender athlete, it was difficult to see my place in sports and see that I belong,” they say. “And the same goes for cisgender girls who are navigating their experience; we have a male-dominated sports culture in North America and they deserve to see they have a place in this sport.”

Eric Forget/GE Appliances Canada

In girls’ sports, there is a noticeable drop-out around the adolescent years and heading into adulthood that isn’t reflected in boys’ sports. It’s something Quinn remembers too around that age. “The biggest challenge was figuring out what pathway there was and whether soccer could be a viable option in your future,” they say. 

There was also the (still-present) funding divide: “The boys’ side had all these academy programs, and they had all the cool uniforms,” they joke. “There needs to be more investment, and we’re finally starting to see that. Young girls are getting to understand that they’ll have all the resources that they need to succeed.

Hopefully that will be changing with the announcement of the professional Canadian women’s league. “It’ll be another avenue for people to watch women’s soccer; it’s really exciting,” they say. “And I think the World Cup is another opportunity for people to see our team and hopefully see some of the players that will be playing in the upcoming league.” 

Quinn says the emotions are “finally coming to the surface” around the World Cup, but it’s mostly exciting. “We’ve obviously never won a World Cup and to be honest, in the past we haven’t performed in the ways that we’ve wanted to. For us, coming off of an Olympic gold medal, it’s a unique experience,” they say. “We were world leaders in that sense, and so I think it’s a different perspective this time around, not as underdogs but as the team to beat.”

However the tournament goes, Quinn will be representing the trans community on one of the largest stages in the world — an incredible feat at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are under attack and hate is rising against the community, even in Canada. “I think young trans people have been weaponized, and that is a really horrifying thing,” they say.

As trans people in sports have become a talking point for transphobic activists, It’s an especially scary time for young non-binary and trans athletes. Quinn says, for those hoping to find their place in sports, finding community is most important. “In first coming out, finding a sense of community was hugely important for me because it was a really isolating experience. Being able to share my experience with other people who felt the same way, and who are experiencing the same things, was really helpful.”

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