Brazilian Transgender Volleyball Star Stirs Debate by Eyeing Olympics

Tifanny Abreu is setting records and plans to play in the Tokyo Games in 2020.

Tifanny Abreu
Transgender Brazilian volleyball star Tifanny Abreu is setting records and plans to play in the Tokyo Games in 2020. (Getty Images)
Getty Images

Tifanny Abreu is one of Brazil’s most talked about and controversial athletes. And it is not because she is one of the top-ranked players in Brazil’s professional Superliga, the country’s premier women’s volleyball league. Instead, it is because Abreu is transgender, which has made her a polarizing figure among volleyball fans, reports The New York Times. Volleyball is an incredibly popular sport in the country, second-most only after soccer, and millions tune in for the games. Abreu, 33, is the first transgender player to make it to Brazil’s top ranks. She is hoping to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, and experts say it is likely she will. She would make history as one of the first openly transgender athletes to participate in the Games. The 2020 Games are expected to be the first in which openly transgender athletes will compete, The Times reports, even though guidelines on hormone levels have been established since 2016. Brazil’s volleyball team won gold in 2008 and 2012. Though some fans have been outraged, Abreu’s team has stood beside her, speaking up in favor of her playing. Other fans have called her an inspiration. “If it weren’t for Tifanny, I couldn’t even be here,” said Julia Bueno, a young transgender woman studying psychology, to The New York Times. “Sports games are not usually comfortable spaces for trans people. She is doing so much for us, so we want to do something for her, too.”

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