Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 7th, 2019 at 8:58 am
The global debate over the presence of transgender athletes in competitive sports has hit our local racing scene.
“I believe that transgender people should participate at OBRA events in the gender category in which they feel most closely aligns with their gender identity and athletic ability.”
— Steven Beardsley, OBRA Board member
When transgender athlete Rachel McKinnon defended her track World Championship victory last month, it sparked a wide-ranging debate about gender, fairness and tolerance in sports. It also appears to have been the last straw for former Olympic cyclist Inga Thompson. Under a headline at SaveWomensSports.com of, “Male athletes are taking over women’s cycling,” Thompson wrote: “This is the beginning of the end for women’s sports. We cannot allow this abuse of female athletes and mockery of women’s sports to continue. It is not bigotry to defend biology, and it is not hate speech to defend your rights.”
Thompson’s article and proposal to create a separate category for transgender athletes caught the attention of local bike racers because Thompson is an at-large member of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) Board of Directors.
Thompson’s views prompted local bike shop owner Rachel Cameron to launch a petition last week that call for her to be removed from the board.
As those petitions swirled around, OBRA Executive Director Chuck Kenlan addressed the controversy in an email to members on October 31st. “Although our staff and board members may have personal views that aren’t shared by everyone who is a member of OBRA, we are committed to always upholding and defending the mission, vision and current rules of the organization, including our Transgender Policy (attached) and Code of Conduct. We pledge to continue to work and grow as an organization in addressing issues that affect our underrepresented members, including transgender and non-binary racers, and how our staff and board interact around these issues.”
“We are doing what we can to include everyone who does not benefit from cis-male privilege, and we are all better because of inclusion.”
— Clint Culpepper, Portland Trophy Cup
Then earlier this week someone posted the text of a
fake satirical anti-transgender news story on the OBRA Chat list. The posting sparked a heated debate with dozens of messages. The thread became so hurtful and negative that OBRA leaders took the rare step of deleting it and they’ve banned the original poster from using the list.
On Monday, Kenlan published another message to OBRA members saying he was “deeply troubled” to read the anti-transgender post. “His attempt at humor was offensive, bigoted and has no place within the organization or even on our fringes… OBRA Chat can be a powerful forum to share thoughts and ideas. I would hope that everyone that participates in the group does their best to be respectful and refrains from name-calling and hateful remarks.” Kenlan also pointed members to OBRA’s existing, detailed transgender policy (PDF) that says racers are allowed to self-select their own gender.
Yesterday, OBRA Board Member Steven Beardsley posted to the chat list that he felt messages shared by some members about transgender athletes was, “revolting and offensive”. “I believe that transgender people should participate at OBRA events in the gender category in which they feel most closely aligns with their gender identity and athletic ability,” he wrote. “I believe that our community is currently too homogeneous. Our organization needs to be doing a better job at providing opportunities for marginalized and underrepresented communities to enjoy the sport of cycling.”
Despite transphobic outbursts from some OBRA members this week, there are other many signs that the racing scene in the Portland region embraces people who don’t identify with the gender of their birth. Portland Trophy Cup owner Clint Culpepper explicitly makes all “Women” race categories open to, “all cis-women, trans-women, and non-binary racers.”
“We are doing what we can to include everyone who does not benefit from cis-male privilege,” Culpepper’s website states, “and we are all better because of inclusion.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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