breaking down barriers

That time Ellia Green made history by becoming the first out trans Olympic athlete

This profile is part of Queerty’s 2022 Out For Good series, recognizing public figures who’ve had the courage to come out and make a difference in the past year, in celebration of National Coming Out Day.

Name: Ellia Green, 29

Bio: Ellia Green, the first Olympian to ever publicly come out as a transgender man, was born in Fiji in 1993. At five years old, Green, who was assigned female at birth, moved to Australia with his adoptive parents, and quickly shined as an athlete. He competed at the world junior athletic championships before switching to rugby at age 18.

One year later, he found himself playing for the Australian Sevens team, representing Australia in rugby competitions across the world. Green quickly established himself as one of the best players in the women’s game, and led Australia to a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. It’s believed that Green is the first person of Fijian heritage to win an Olympic medal.

Before every match, Green paid homage to his mother, Yolanda, writing the word “mum” on his wrist. “I remind myself my mum is a fighter and so I am going to fight for her as well,” said Green at the time, via New Daily.

Green’s childhood wasn’t easy. He watched his mother get abused in a relationship, and struggled with his gender identity. But he credits the hard times for providing him with resilience.

“I do believe that even through traumatic circumstances there was a lot to learn from it,” he said in an interview with Yahoo!


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A post shared by Ellia Tiriseyani Green (@elliagreen)

Coming out: Green credits transitioning with saving his life. His mother’s death in 2018 triggered an array of mental health issues, which were compounded when he didn’t make Australia’s Olympic team for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Green told Rolling Stone that getting cut from the team made him “feel like a complete failure.” He took solace in his upcoming top surgery.

“I just knew I was going be the most liberating feeling when I had that surgery and started to take the steps towards being in the body that I know I am meant to be in,” he said. “So that was definitely something that was a bright spark in my mind during this dark time.”

Green, who kept the same name post-transition, publicly came out in August in a pre-recorded video shown at an international summit in Canada on ending anti-LGBTQ attitudes in sports. In it, he addresses his dark mental state after he retired from the game.

“I was ashamed of myself, I felt I had let a lot of people down, especially myself and my mom. I felt like a complete failure, it was heartbreaking,” he said. “The one thing that did keep me positive is that I had already planned my surgery and treatment towards my transition. It was something I was counting down the days with my partner.”

Green has a daughter with his partner, Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts.


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A post shared by Ellia Tiriseyani Green (@elliagreen)

Standing up for trans athletes: Green’s coming out arrives at a precarious time for transgender athletes, and the battle over inclusion is playing out in rugby. This year, World Rugby blocked transgender women from competing in elite women’s international rugby union, and the International Rugby League instituted a ban as well.

Now publicly out, Green championed the rights of trans athletes in his coming-out video.

“Imagine not being able to do what you love because of how you identify, banning transgender people from sport, I think is disgraceful, and I think it’s hurtful,” he said.


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A post shared by Ellia Tiriseyani Green (@elliagreen)

In a subsequent interview with the Associated Press, Green said he wanted to be shown as a positive example.

Mission accomplished.

“I’d like to help someone not feel so isolated by telling my story,” he said.

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