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As this trans cyclist is breaking barriers, she receives praise and uninformed criticism

Jillian Bearden is tackling every mountain on her bike.

Jillian Bearden is blazing a trail for trans athletes everywhere.

Jillian Bearden is a name you should become familiar with quickly. After winning the El Tour De Tucson race last year, she has been attracting attention from people inside her sport, and a lot of folks who are watching from the outside (some of which happen to behave like completely uninformed jerks).

Bearden is at the center of what has been a major sports storyline over the last year surrounding the participation of trans athletes. It was almost exactly a year ago that the International Olympic Committee adjusted its transgender policy to make the entire sports world a more inclusive place.

In a wonderful feature on Bearden by Cycling Tips, we get a glimpse inside the successes and struggles of a trans athlete who is at the forefront of this growing movement toward inclusion.

“As a whole the cycling community has not had any issue with me racing or training with other cis male and/or females,” Bearden told Outsports. “All of 2016 I rode for Naked Women’s Racing out of Boulder, Colo., and every girl was amazing. Not sure if they feel that I’m safe to compete with because they know that I’m working with the IOC and they handle all my blood results. The IOC would not let me compete if I was not in compliance.”

By the way, Naked is the sponsor of her team, not the style in which they ride.

Bearden said the media coverage she has received has also been welcome, and that writers have generally taken great care with her story.

“The media has been wonderful,” Bearden said. “All the people I have met have been very kind. My story is very unusual. Yes I’m a trans woman, but a trans woman who was an athlete before and after transition. That has opened the doors for the ongoing story of my fair-competition test for the IOC and helping the athletic world adopt new trans policies.”

Still, there have been many Internet comments about her that continue to demonstrate a total failure to understand transgender athletes. Thankfully Bearden chooses to focus on the positive support she receives.

Be sure to check out Cycling Tips’ feature on Bearden, as well as a feature by Colorado Springs Independent.

And whether your’e an athlete or supporter, you can find the Trans National Women’s Cycling Team on Facebook.