Trans people & cis allies unite in Solidarity Cycle
16th August 2023
Coinciding with the final day of UCI World Champs in Glasgow
On Sunday 13th August, on the last day of the UCI World Cycling Championships in Glasgow, LEAP Sports organised a Solidarity Cycle event, partnering with community activists, and cycling groups including Dynamo. The event was organised in response to the UCI’s decision to ban trans women from competing in the women’s category.
The Solidarity Cycle started at the Riverside Museum where riders donned their flags and banners to ride into Glasgow city centre where we paused to wave flags and banners alongside other activists and allies from groups such as Glasgow Trans Rally who had organised excellent banners along the roads of the women’s elite race track. Visibility of the action on the day was strong including STV news coverage of the race (see video below).
The Solidarity Cycle continued through Govanhill accompanied by a great deal of support from people on the streets, and ending up in the Southside view point, Queen’s Park flagpole for a series of speeches from trans people and supporters.
Robin considered on the hill up to the flagpole in Queen’s Park: “I have often treated hills like a metaphor for my life, if you can get up this hill then you can overcome whatever challenge you’re facing right now that feels impossible” On their relationship with cycling, Robin went on to say: “As a trans cyclist I’m disappointed in the UCIs decision to ban trans women from competing in the women’s category. I know how much cycling has meant to me throughout my transition. As an anorexic teen with gender dysphoria, cycling helped me to develop with my body, to feel empowered by it, by what it could do and where it could take me. It helps my thoughts settle, it helps me reconnect with my body, even when it’s not felt like mine.”
Emil, Director at Dynamo Glasgow told us how the UCI policy change came along at a time when she was getting interested in racing with UCI saying; “no you as a trans woman cannot compete and race”. Emil said: “I think racing can mean a lot, so when this year started and we heard that the UCI was coming to Glasgow it was quite exciting. It’s the biggest UCI championships ever, with the most disciplines ever...also this year we’ve seen women’s cycling has been right at the forefront, on equal footing with the men’s cycling, but all of that was overshadowed by one big horrible negative thing, which came just a month ago now, when they said “actually we don’t mean those women, just these women”
Emil continued “But it’s not all bad. There are alternatives to the UCI (racing), and I think something we need to do is to just say we don’t actually care about the establishment anymore…I’m really privileged to be able to enter a bikepacking event next month because they have a policy of inclusion, or openness to everyone, so there a lots of positives that I want you to all look to. And yeah, keep riding bikes.”
Councillor Elaine Gallagher, shared her experiences of attempting to find the sport and physical activity for her: “What I want to do is talk mostly about the personal impacts to one trans person of exclusion from sport…I’m going to talk about medical gatekeeping a little bit, because for me to access gender confirmation surgery, my bmi needs to be less than 30…What exercise can I get - it’s very very uncomfortable for me to go to gyms. If I want to present as female in a gym then I don’t look the part, if I have to present as male in a gym then I feel dysphoric. And also there is the increasing transphobia threats, personal danger, I don’t really want to get beat up in a locker room myself. So what’s left? Outdoor sports…But if trans people are going to be discouraged from sport, as they’re discouraged from participation in every walk of life…”
“Each of these things just adds up, and adds up, and adds up, to basically excluding trans people from existence, whether it’s the medical gatekeeping, whether it’s the prejudice of the unfounded claims of evidence against cyclists that claim they are competing unfairly. Or whether it’s just the difficulty of finding jobs, finding positions, finding access, or possibly living without being under threat, to making life untenable for trans people.”
Hugh Torrance, LEAP Sports Executive Director said that there were many questions for UCI that have yet to be answered highlighting that the previous UCI policy said that any regulations around trans women in cycling needed to be necessary and proportionate, and to provide a clear pathway to participation for trans people, yet the new regulations disregard all of that.
Commenting on the community’s engagement with the event, he said: “We are pleased to see Glasgow and Scotland celebrate yet another successful staging of a world event in a world class manner. LGBTIQ+ people have increasingly supported and engaged in major sporting events in the city. But these regressive guidelines make it harder for us to share in the city’s success, coming as they do in this context of inclusion and equality regressions. And it’s a bittersweet reminder to us that systematic exclusion from cycling is part of the continued oppression of queer people and in our continued exclusion from sport.”
Patrick Harvie, MSP and Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants Rights said: “... the decision that’s been made in relation to trans peoples inclusion in elite sport, is only one facet, one aspect, of a much bigger fight that’s being had had in this country and around the world…we need to take on every aspect of that fight.“
Patrick went on to reflect about his role in the change of attitudes and the barriers people face: “It’s not my job to make decisions about elite sport, but I do want cycling at every level to be inclusive, because that’s what helps people to get over those cultural barriers, that’s what makes it easier for people to get on a bike or to get back on a bike after maybe many years of not using it, and that’s what’s going to help make my job easier and to help shift Scotland to a low carbon transport system as well”
As Patrick Harvie finished his remarks he highlighted the positive reaction to the Solidarity Cycle: “I want to thank LEAP Sports and everybody else that has come together to make this event happen. And those of us who were on the bike round, you’ll have lost count at the amount of people who waved or cheered or other cyclists who rang their bells in support when they saw the flags and the banners and the placards and stuff, so, you know, let's take heart from the fact that there are people out there who get why this is important, who celebrate the fact that you organised this ride”
Dynamo Glasgow is a new queer-led, feminist cycling and maintenance organisation based in Glasgow. They are a collective of queer individuals modelling an alternative cycling industry. You can follow their work and find more information on Instagram @DynamoGlasgow or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Trans Cyclist Collective and Glasgow Trans Rally are community groups run to share trans activism and organising. Find them on Instagram @trans_cyclist_collective and @Glasgow_trans_rally