Questioning Humanity, Bullying, and USAC’s Golden Rule
About a month ago, Dr. Rachel McKinnon made cycling history by becoming the first transgender athlete to win a world cycling championship when she won the match sprint competition in the age 35-44 category at the track world championships in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, the woman who got third — who beat Dr. McKinnon in other events at Worlds and several times in the season leading up to the World Championships — used the historic moment to complain that it was unfair for Dr. McKinnon to compete because she is trans.
The ensuing few weeks brought out more than the usual ugly, discriminatory, and hurtful comments from people in the cycling world about trans people, and trans women in particular. Even those people who just wanted to be “educated” were acting in bad faith. The subtext of “just asking questions” is people asking trans athletes is to justify their existence. It’s dehumanizing on top of being unfair.
Despite this, it took USA Cycling two weeks to post a policy statement supporting Dr. McKinnon, even though there are very clear rules regarding trans athletes, which she had to follow to the letter to even be allowed to the start line.
Those rules, frankly, suck. It’s absurd to think anyone would try to follow them unless they were actually trans. They include the need for invasive testing, sharing very personal medical information over an extended period of time, and being willing to be questioned about your gender and your hormone levels over and over and over. USA Cycling and the International Olympic Committee always reserve the right to ask trans athletes for more proof that their gender is what they say it is and that their hormone levels are below a certain threshold. (If you want to read the full policies governing amateur and elite athletes, you can find it on USA Cycling's website. If you’re interested in the science, read this. Don’t feel entitled to an explanation of something that you can google yourself!)
However, there is really only one rule for most of us cis* athletes need to know about this issue: being an asshole is a violation of USAC policy.
The one rule that gets broken over and over when it comes to trans athletes has nothing to do with gender: it’s Section 3(d)(2) of the USA Cycling Code of Conduct, which prohibits USAC members from bullying other athletes, either online or in person. Examples of violations of this rule include, “[p]ersistent name calling, insulting or humiliating” and “[u]sing a person as butt of jokes, abusive or offensive remarks.” Bullying fellow athletes can lead to suspension, or expulsion, from USA Cycling.
When you question the humanity of your fellow bike racers, that’s bullying, and the only person breaking the rules of the sport is you.
* Cisgender refers to a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person was identified as having at birth. It is not a derogatory term. It is derived from the latin preposition cis, which is the antonym of trans.