July 30, 2023

A few years ago the national and international discussions regarding the inclusion of trans athletes began generating substantial heat, but surprisingly little light. There are no easy answers, or at least none that seem to satisfy everyone. The UCI’s recent ban of trans athletes sent a shock wave through the trans and cycling communities, and events like ours have been asked to clarify where we stand. There’s some history here.

Since 2009, Epic has welcomed all riders regardless of age, race, creed, ethnicity or gender. We’ve managed very well with just three rules, the basic framework of which was and is, “Be decent to other people.”

In 2021, in an effort to vocally extend a hand of welcome to the trans community, we issued a strongly worded statement. You can find the bones of that on our Twitter account if you care to scroll backwards for a few minutes. There have been a few long threads since then, so maybe limber up your scrolling finger.

After re-reading it in July, 2023,  I believe that the statement’s good intent is apparent, but I also think that it’s a touch combative, and needlessly so. If the goal is to build bridges and facilitate dialogue, firing off manifestos is a shaky start. I’m leaving it published because honesty matters. I typed those words and own them. While my perspective has developed a bit, transparency is important. You are who you are. You’re also, to an extent at least, who you were.

Shortly prior to publishing that thread in 2021, I created our first non-binary category, believing it to be a part of the inclusion answer. Many believe that a non-binary category is a simple and elegant solution. That it’s that simple. To a great extent, I did too. But my perspective has evolved.

Epic’s non-binary category is opt-in. It always has been. I believe that overwhelmingly, people are honest and fair. By extension, I have faith that riders, regardless of gender, will categorize themselves properly and in a way that not only aligns with their identity, but that’s also respectful of the other competitors in their field.

While non-binary categories seemed like an effective solution at the time, there are problems with them. They “out” trans riders who wish simply for privacy. Alarmingly,  the category has been misused to identify trans athletes, subjecting them to threats of harm, violence and even death.

I honestly believe that people are amazing. That everyone carries within themselves a spark of incredible-ness. But there’s also evidence that some people, a small but vocal handful, are truly awful.

Is there a fairness issue? Maybe. I’m not tone-deaf to those who invoke fairness concerns, nor am I ignorant of the fact that women as a whole are already marginalized in sport. The irony here is as thick as it gets.

Then there’s science that conflicts. Biological criteria for trans participation are evolving in real time. The fact that that’s happening suggests that the issue hasn’t been definitively decided yet. I would caution everyone (me included) to be careful about citing only the science that aligns with our particular ideology.

I’m asking for patience from all regarding fairness concerns. Voicing reasonable questions does not merit labeling those seeking understanding or knowledge a bigot or transphobe. Again, this is not how bridges are built or understanding is cultivated. We all arrive together, right? At the Pearly Gates, Valhalla or as twinkling motes of cosmic dust, dancing through the universe. This is just bike racing. It makes sense that we talk TO each other and not AT each other.

I’m not a biologist, endocrinologist or ethicist. I don’t have training in any of those areas. I’m just a race producer trying as best I can to live by the same rules that I set our for our riders 15 years ago. This isn’t a simple policy decision, nor is it made in defiance of those who hold differing perspectives. But here, today, in 2023, human beings are being threatened. To me, at least, offering those humans welcome, understanding, and a little bit of shelter is a humanitarian decision that supersedes ideological perspectives.

We may not all agree. I hope that if that’s the case, that we can discuss our viewpoints as friends, colleagues and collaborators while making the attempt to keep in mind the things upon which we do agree. I guarantee you that that list is substantially longer. I’ve had a few of those conversations lately, and while there is a bit of fire in my inbox, there is far more light. This gives me hope for all of us. About everything.

Let’s ride bikes together. Let’s break bread and the twist-off seals on a few green bottles. Let’s laugh, suffer and commisserate. Because that’s how you build a bridge.