As the battle over transgender athletes rages on, two trans cyclists ran the tables in a recent Chicago race. Here is why they have conservatives in an uproar and crying foul all over again.
Cycling Takes a Stance
In July of 2023, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) updated its rules regarding transgender athletes.
They Drew a Line in the Sand
In that ruling, the UCI said, in part, that trans cyclists would not be allowed to compete against women in elite events if they “”transitioned after (male) puberty.”
One Word Makes All the Difference
The key part of that clause for a couple of trans athletes with their sights set on Chicago in October was the bit about “elite” events.
Not Quite Elite
According to USA Cycling standards, the Chicago Cyclocross Cup held in Jackson Park the second weekend of the month fell into the non-elite bucket of bike races.
It’s up to the Athlete
And, by USA Cycling rules, athletes competing in “non-elite competition levels, a member may self-select their gender.”
Free to Choose
That meant that trans cyclists were free to compete in the Cyclocross Cup with their self-identified gender, and that’s exactly what happened.
Dominating the Non-Elites
In fact, not only did two trans cyclists compete in the event, they dominated.
Not Even Close
According to the official results published by USA Cycling, Tessa Johnson won the CX Women SingleSpeed, while Evelyn Williamson finished second, more than a minute and a half behind.
Not in the Same League
Both women are transgender athletes, and the third-placer didn’t even manage to finish the final lap before Johnson and Williamson crossed the finish line.
More Trophies for the Case
Johnson also nabbed the title in the CX Women’s Cat half race, while Williamson finished fourth in that one.
They Support the Other Side
Those results, while officially sanctioned by the UCI, also seem to play into the reasoning the governing board used for banning transgender athletes in the first place.
There Is No Guarantee
In their July 5 ruling, the UCI said that even though today’s scientists mostly claim that hormone therapy primarily erases any physical advantage a trans athlete may have, there is no guarantee.
A Little Wiggle Room
The UCI did leave some wiggle room in their statement by saying that the ruling applied to transgender women who “transitioned after (male) puberty.”
Doesn’t Matter to Them
The timing of Johnson’s and Williamon’s transitions was not disclosed in reports in the Chicago races, but it wouldn’t matter in this case because of the non-elite status of the events.
Giving Ammo to Conservatives
But these victories and the relative ease with which the two women outpaced the field in the CX Women SingleSpeed event will no doubt bolster ongoing conservative backlash against transgender athletes.
Undermining Title IX
Many say that transgender women competing in women’s sports undermine Title IX, which was designed to give women access to a fair and even playing field across all athletic endeavors.
Always on the Table
While Title IX wouldn’t necessarily apply to a non-academic or non-professional event such as the Chicago race, it’s still a topic of debate whenever transgender athletes excel.
A Temporary Celebration
For now, athletes like Johnson and Williamson are free to enjoy their triumphs and bask in the limelight that they have earned for themselves.
Helping the Other Side
The irony is that, for every on-field victory by a transgender woman, the case against their participation seems to gain another data point in its favor.
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