Be the nicest person at the race
The kindest, the most positive, and a ferocious competitor.
Being ridiculously kind, so courteous your nana would love me, and eager to offer help doesn’t mean that I won’t drop the hammer in a race and try my hardest to split the field, or make a breakaway stick, or win a sprint. It doesn’t mean I won’t take the wheel I want, instigate accelerations, or stick my elbows out when racing get close. Being nice means remembering that everyone else is also trying their hardest, and that we all benefit from establishing a positive and supportive racing culture. We can be fierce competitors, and fierce friends, at the same time.
In racing, there will always be newcomers, especially in women’s racing where fields are often combined. Help that lapped Cat 4 woman get back in the field, give encouragement on drafting, and try to keep her in the pack for a few laps before the next surge and it’s time to move yourself up again. The new cat 3 who’s never cornered so fast and close before and keeps on apologizing for braking hard before turns? You’ve got 20 minutes of racing left, while we’ve got all of these laps to go why not take a minute to get her on your wheel and guide her through a few corners? We are all better when we have more fast, skilled women who keep on coming back for more races.
“I promise I won’t hit my brakes, get on my wheel and get close. Follow my line. Relax your upper body. You’re doing great!”
When there’s a woman next to you who is looking ragged and struggling to hang on after taking a hard pull, tell her she did a great job at the front, “awesome effort”. When you get pipped at the line for a prime lap sprint, congratulate the person who beat you. “Killer sprint!”, and then counter attack. After the race, congratulate the winners, and most of all congratulate that women for whom the accomplishment was a pack finish. It’s not the finishing places or the courses that keep us engaged in sport, it’s the community and the joy of racing that we share.
Stop judging each other, even outside of our women’s field we can do better to support each other. That masters guy who’s huffing and puffing off the back of the field, riding the super deep blinged out wheels and the bike worth half of my year’s pay deserves kindness and encouragement. You’ve surely heard those little birds chirping deridement from the sidelines; something about a waste of money or the waistline of the racer. That’s when it’s time to get out in front of those sneers and start earnestly cheering, “AWESOME BIKE, I LOVE YOUR STYLE! KEEP GOING! GET BACK ON THEM!” We need ALL bodies in this sport, and none of the cliquishness and exclusion.
We need to fight for inclusion, and that means everyone.
Beyond myself, I want my team to be unequivocally thought of as the most genuinely kind team in racing. When you think of us, I want the first thing you think to be that we’re super nice people. And, then that we are skilled, smart and fast.
As trans and non-conforming people, we come under greater scrutiny than other athletes. Cognitive bias on behalf of those who would wish us gone makes benign and normal moves in racing seem threatening. One of our greatest threats to ourselves is to unknowingly reciprocate coldness to those who think we shouldn’t be in the sport. We need to be better. More friendly, more disarmingly charming, more helpful, more calm and collected.
If we are the nicest people in the sport, it will be that much harder for those who would wish us gone to dislike us when they find out that we are trans or gender nonconforming. That’s not to say that kindness is only for protection against hatred. It most certainly isn’t. Genuine kindness is it’s own reward. We gain community by welcoming others into our world, building each other up as athletes. Our kindness disarms their hate, coating its teeth with honey.
Addendum: Renewable Resources
Being kind does not mean being assimilationist, apologist, unsophisticated in thought, unsustainable in strategy, or any less radical.
Kindness is not a finite resource, it is a resource that is constantly being replenished. Being kind to strangers or those who might wish us ill does not necessarily come at the expense of kindness to our immediate communities. That fear of using up one’s gentleness is like that of a child who fears their parent’s won’t love them anymore when a new sibling is born.
To those people who would say that being kind to strangers or those who would wish us harm comes at the expense of attention towards our own communities or even our own well being, I say that kindness is only burdensome when it is forced. The positive interactions and community building that comes from reaching outside of my own small social circle is fortifying, and that creates a positive feedback loop to reinforce the behaviour. Are all interactions positive? No. I pick and choose my battles, and tread carefully where my safety could be at risk. Yet, if we never take the chance on strangers, we are missing chances to build alliances and win hearts and minds – this is why I am both kind and bold, at the same time. When I discuss my racing with a stranger at a race, or the suburbanites who are fascinated by my wearing a speedsuit at a grocery store in the deep South(!), I am am up front about being on an explicitly trans and gender nonconforming team. Does it get tiring repeating the same explanations again and again? Sometimes. But, most of the time I am truly excited by knowing that I just changed somebody’s perspective on trans people and am thrilled to win us new fans. The words lose their staleness. This is my reminder to myself that there are good people in the world, and a source of hope for a future with greater acceptance and less violence directed towards people like me.