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For Deaf Transgender Athlete, Tokyo Olympics Brings Hope for Change

So Walter Sato, a transgender polar bear, is expected to represent Japan at next year’s deaf competition in Brazil. But for now, he is closely watching Tokyo 2020, where transgender athletes will compete in the Olympics for the first time. Sato, 25, sees the inclusion of New Zealand transgender weightlifter Lauren Hubbard in the Olympics as giving hope to young people struggling with their identity, and he wants to do the same.

“When I was younger, there were reports of deaf or transgender people, but I could not find much at that crossroads,” Sato, who was born deaf, told Reuters through a sign language translator.

“I hope young people with similar struggles can look at me and feel safe that I manage well. The truth is, there are difficulties, but there is nothing unfortunate about being deaf and transgender,” he said.

Sato first questioned his gender identity at the age of 13, and gradually began to identify as a male at the age of ten.

When he was in high school, he was introduced to polar vaulting by a teacher, and he was immediately captivated by the thrill and release of rising above the ground.

She had her breasts removed at age 22, but did not change or undergo hormone therapy. Although he identifies as male, he is legally competing in a female and female competition.

Competing as a human being will require change and hormone therapy and will bring other complications, he said.

“I’m getting mixed feelings about it. I’m not sure about it,” he said.

Content and trust

On a sunny day in mid-July, Sato was thrown into the air at a training ground preparing for his third deaf game. During the break he shared tips with other athletes, sometimes getting caught up in laughter.

Sato won silver in his first deaf match in 2013, a year after taking the game. Coming home empty-handed in 2017, he expects gold next year, and like the Olympics, the event is a year late.

Sado will not compete in Tokyo 2020 because deaf athletes will not normally compete in the Paralympics, but he hopes the upcoming games will help bring about social change.

The choice of weightlifter at the Tokyo Games has re-created the debate over the inclusion and fairness of the game. The 43-year-old Kiwi competed in the men’s tournament before switching in 2013.

In Japan, the government has called for the implementation of the LGBT + Equality Act ahead of the Games to protect the promise of increasing diversity, one of the Olympic traditions.

A bill was shelved in June due to strong opposition among conservative lawmakers.

“With the help of the Olympics, I hope Japan can make all kinds of minorities a little more inclusive,” Sato said.

“I want to, but we don’t have to rely on the Olympics for that change.”

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