Spoiled: part 2

Let’s go back one step.

I began racing in men’s fields fairly anonymously, wearing a kit two sizes too big and hoping none of the other guys would put all of the signs together and notice that I am female-bodied and not just really young. I was a mediocre cat 4 by a couple of months into of my first summer racing, when you looked at the results: mostly midfield, a smattering of top tens in flat crits, a few lucky top-fives on a very good day, but always just shy of the podium. For a while, mid-field was great. I was a new racer, in a field of novice/intermediate racers. And, I was getting faster!

I became tactically savvy and confident, I started training far harder than any of my teammates, I read all there was to read about cycling training, and I worked with a coach. I was in phenomenal racing form by the next Spring. And then, my contentment ended. I realized that I was nearing all I could hope to be, if I was going to keep on racing with novice and intermediate men. This personal experiment in physiology had some early conclusions: my power profile was different than the rest of the guys. I had learned to suffer, to conserve energy and to hide in the field, to push through mental barriers and lactic acid, and to hang on for a mid-field finish (better on a lucky day).

I had become an incredibly efficient rider and racer, and had a lot of fun. But, I was never going to learn the strategies needed at the pointy end of the field. And, I knew I would be hard pressed to ever upgrade to men’s cat 3. I was ready to walk away from the sport because I was frustrated with the lack of a pathway for development. Yet, while I was having an internal discussion about giving up this beautifully painful lifestyle I’d adopted, I continued racing for the love of speed and the sport. I LOVED racing men’s crits, even if the novice men did, well… novice things that frustrated me, or more and more often than not made me sit up coming into the sprint rather than risk my skin for 10th place in a sketchy field.

To quote myself on the issue I was facing“All is not equal in cycling. And, I don’t just mean social differences in the way racers are treated. Bodies matter. Anyone who claims the contrary has likely never experienced the challenges of being the only female bodied person on a training ride with similarly skilled and conditioned male racers.” 

2015-07-14 01.00.23

That’s why I petitioned for a change of license to reflect my being physiologically female. There was no good path for further development as a racer on an unequal playing field. Now, read carefully, “development as a racer” means just that. I wanted an opportunity to progress, to race against women with equal skills and tactical savvy, and to learn from those more experienced and skilled. I didn’t request a change of license so I could win, but to learn the skills and tactics I would need to race successfully at a higher level.

I knew women’s cycling had issues, and I thought I was ready to take on the small field sizes and scarcity of races, and brush off the issues with unequal payout. It seemed hopeful. Yet, at that time, just getting past the hurdle of changing my license and the prospect of a future of racing on a level playing field was almost too much to imagine. And, I accepted the uncertainty of the situation—it was quite possible that when I outed myself to USAC, requesting a change of license under a completely absent and unpublished “case by case” policy, that I would be denied or even have my license revoked. If that had happened, I figured I could go back to just riding bicycles, which is what I was leaning towards at that point anyway, as disappointing as that idea was.

To be continued: finding myself unprepared for the inequality, speaking up, the consequences… and, what now?

Photo credit Charles Rumford (featured), Lee O’Reilly (mid-post)

Advertisements

Again? The new academic year brings reiteration

 

We are now a solid month into the 2014-15 academic year at Yale, and have a slew of new members of the Yale Cycling team. With those new members comes new confusion. I am a member of our women’s team, and as such am on the women’s team listserve and attending women’s team events (training discussions over froyo, rides, etc). I am even a central organizer of women’s team events, to some people’s confusion. After all, what is a guy doing at women’s events!?

The new year brings a new need to come out again and re-explain. This year is a different situation in that I am meeting our new members for the first time, and bringing confusion with our first interactions in cycling, which is a highly gendered sport. This makes me highly visible as a gender-confusing person. I present as and look like a guy, except for a few details that only those who are really  paying attention would pick up on at first glance. But, I do a lot of talking about women’s cycling and I attend women’s events and races.

Last year, I was already known as one of the guys, with a full semester or more of being acquainted with all of the team members, as I came out to the greater Yale cycling community as being a female bodied trans person in the early spring, just prior to the road racing season. This year I had wanted to wait as long as possible to address the issue, for the sake of not creating a distraction from what we are all here for; the cycling! However, we are currently at that tipping point where my presence at women’s events without explanation is the distraction. So, it is time for me to start drafting a new, delicately-worded email to this year’s team explaining that while I am socially a guy, I have a female body and compete in women’s cycling.

To add to the archives, here is what was written in an address to the team and the greater Yale/ New Haven area cycling community last spring. The email below effectively outed me to the team plus approximately 800 people in the regional cycling community a single day.

Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have such a supportive cycling team? I expect no less this year, and am so thankful for the attitudes of openness and inclusion that I’ve experienced here at Yale Cycling.


 

Dear Team,

Yale Bulldogs Cycling is proud to be a national leader in inclusiveness and diversity, as well as one of the fastest and most fun collegiate teams around!Keeping with this spirit of inclusion and welcoming diversity, we are proud to announce that one of our own, Travis, has spearheaded a push for major changes in national competitive cycling policy in a precedent setting case.

Please take the time to read his statement below.

As fellow team member and women’s captain, ____ is thrilled to be racing alongside Travis in the women’s field, and ____ will miss his presence in the men’s.

Travis has the full support of our team behind him and we’ll be there for him on and off the bike.

Best,

Your Captains, (names redacted)



Dear Yale Bulldogs Cycling,

First, thank you for being my teammates and my friends. It has been an honor to get to know you you while on the team.

Before you read it elsewhere, I want you to hear this from me first. In search of a level playing field, I have requested a change of USA Cycling license to reflect a recategorization from male to female for the purposes of racing. I was born female. I transitioned to living as a guy because I find that to be the most socially comfortable on a day to day basis. After extensive medical expert review to determine that I have no competitive advantage, USA Cycling has granted me a license to race in collegiate women’s A, or category 3 non-collegiate.

Why am I disclosing this now? Because cycling has changed my life in immensely positive ways, bringing me incredible joy. What’s more, my competitive cycling community is the kindest, most passionate and driven, and most altruistic group of people I’ve ever known.  I want all people to be able to experience this beauty that is competitive cycling, regardless of their gender identity or how it matches their body.

Yet, I am still the same guy that you’ve known and ridden along side of. I have not changed, nor has my love of cycling.

I hope to continue to work with the leadership at USA Cycling to develop comprehensive, inclusive policies for the future so that all athletes can participate.

Finally, I can’t wait for the start of the season in March! 

-Travis