On July 14th, the Union Cyclists International banned all trans women from competing in women ’s international cycling events. This is a massive blow to the progress that has been made for the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as cis women.
Jewish poet Emma Lazarus who wrote in 1883, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” Governing trans women's bodies means governing women's bodies. The two are not as disparate as one might think.
This transphobic decision is being justified as a step to protect women’s equality in sports. But what it’s doing is further entrenching us in the patriarchal structures that maintain cis men’s dominance while cis women fight for the breadcrumbs left behind. The exorbitant wages of men dwarf women’s pay, the sponsorships, the prestige: it’s all by design. The categories exist for a reason.
People will argue that when a man transitions to a woman post-puberty, they maintain the biological strength and anatomical composition that lends itself to unfair competition. But there is no data to support this; trans women are not out-competing their cis women competitors in any sport. Do they win some events? Yes. Do they lose other events? Yes. There has yet to be a sport where trans women sweep the wins.
For all of the people who say they are speaking up and out against trans women competing because they believe so strongly in equality for women and maintaining the progress that has been hard fought, I have a question for you: What have you done to champion women in sport?
Have you purchased tickets to women’s professional sports games? Have you donated to youth clubs that get girls involved in sports early? Have you stood up for women in the face of misogynistic rhetoric that either implies or outright states that women don’t have a place in sports the way men do? Have you mentored a girl or woman? In short, have you done anything tangible that actually creates an equitable playing field for women, or are you simply taking this opportunity to further this anti-LGBTQIA+ hysteria?
While the solution to gendered categories is complex and requires more than cis men (and some cis women) making decisions, the answer is not to ban trans women. We will not reach a fair, fearless solution without fully embracing the notion that trans women are women.