When Rachel McKinnon hopped on her bike to compete in the UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championship earlier this month in California, she knew she had followed the competition rules to a tee – ironic for a kid who grew up golfing in Greater Victoria and who is now at the centre of a firestorm of backlash for being a transgender athlete.
“I’m not naive, I work on this topic professionally,” says the College of Charleston professor, on the line from South Carolina. “I’m currently teaching a course on transgender people in sport and yet, I’m pretty shocked at how heavy the backlash is.”
First transgender woman world champion…ever.*
UCI Masters Track Cycling Women 35-44 Sprint@outsports @TheAdvocateMag @CofC @PinkNews @TheChrisMosier @BicyclingMag @velonews @gcntweet @glaad @TransMediaWatch @TransEquality @TransgenderNews @equalitynetwork pic.twitter.com/SD0HuS1Crv
— Dr. Rachel McKinnon (@rachelvmckinnon) October 14, 2018
On Oct. 13, the Stelly’s Secondary School alum and UVic graduate made history as the first transgender woman to win a world title. But, it’s the idea that McKinnon had an unfair advantage – due to being assigned male at birth – that caused an international uproar.
“All the work that went into that victory, people are attributing to me being trans,” she says. “I didn’t just get up off the couch and win. I worked my butt off.”
Standing on the podium with the bronze medal was Jen Wagner Assali, a hand surgeon from Houston, who tweeted immediately following the race that the result was unfair.
She later apologized, saying she made the comments out of frustration and that they weren’t productive or positive, adding: “While I may not agree with the rules, when I pin on a number I agree to race by them.”
The rules, McKinnon says, are clear, and she has always competed in accordance with them, regularly testing her testosterone levels – which require staying below 10 nanomoles for every litre of blood.
The idea that she could have had a physical advantage over her competitors solely based on gender frustrates McKinnon who says in the qualifying rounds, Wagner Assali “beat me 10 out of 12 times.”
And of her competitor’s response on social media, McKinnon says: “She made it clear that she stood by what she said, but just regretted doing it publicly.”
My results last year. …where's this advantage you speak of? Why was I nearly LAST PLACE in most of the pro races (and I only one the one pro race all season)? pic.twitter.com/x68XFvYndI
— Dr. Rachel McKinnon (@rachelvmckinnon) October 22, 2018
|Sochi Olympics offer platform for gay community
The controversy is predictable, McKinnon says, because the rights of transgender people have made significant gains in recent years.
“Every time this has happened in history with marginalized groups and the advancement of civil rights, there’s been a backlash,” she points out. “And, I think we’re in that moment.”
Truth be told, McKinnon doesn’t think people really even care about women’s track cycling, a relatively new sport that first appeared at the 1988 Olympics, and that the criticisms are just a way of “exposing whatever transphobia they already had.”
Participation in sport is a human right, she says, pointing to the fourth principle of the Olympic Charter.
“I do look forward to the day, if it ever comes, that I or people like me can just focus on competing,” McKinnon says. “That’s hard enough.”
BCTF rejects mediator’s recommendations for settlement
Negotiations between B.C. teachers and the province will continue
The Legion’s branch in Fort St. James have donated their building to the community
The building will be used as a homeless shelter in the district amongst other long term community needs
Freezing rain warning issued for central Interior Remembrance Day
Highway alerts in place for Begbie Summitt and Pine Pass
Getting curbside recycling back in the district is still going to be a challenge, says Kat Slorstad
In order to have this service, either the district or Nak’azdli Whut’en need to be primary contract holders with Recycle BC
VIDEO: Canadian allergists’ group wants Benadryl behind the counter due to side effects
Some doctors say the medication is over-used because of its easy availability
Yelling at your dog might hurt its long-term mental health: study
Researchers find dogs trained using negative reinforcement are more ‘pessimistic’
Vancouver Island soap company releases Lucky Lager beer soap
Beer-infused olive oil soap comes out just in time for holiday shopping
Jagmeet Singh says he’ll vote against throne speech if NDP requests not met
Singh is to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday
Community uses loophole to paint 16 rainbow crosswalks after B.C. council says no
So far 11 rainbows are painted and five planned, all since council denied the first proposal in September
Former B.C. youth pastor guilty on one of five sexual assault allegations
Judge cites reasonable doubt in finding Cloverdale couple not guilty of majority of charges
238 and counting: Vancouver gelato shop sets Guinness World record for most flavours
Vince Misceo has come up with 588 different flavours over the decades