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UCI says it will revisit transgender policy after Austin Killips’ Tour of the Gila win

After Killips’ victory, several loud anti-trans voices influenced UCI to promise to reconsider its bylaws.

Austin Killips leads Jenna Lingwood during Sunday’s elite women’s championship race.
Trans cyclist Austin Killips won the 2023 Tour of the Gila and transphobes were predictably outraged.
Karleigh Webb

This past Sunday, transgender cyclist Austin Killips finished in first place at New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila. In doing so, she became the first trans athlete to win a women’s stage race governed by UCI, the federation that oversees world cycling.

Since then, the backlash has been both ugly and predictable from all the usual sources, including The New York Post and the team-up absolutely no one asked for: Sharron Davies and The Daily Mail.

In the wake of this outrage, UCI announced that due to “concerns” from cisgender female athletes, it would be “reopening its consultation” regarding its transgender athlete policy.

Thus, UCI has become the latest example of the vicious cycle facing transgender athletes: when they try to compete according to the rules, they face a maelstrom of screaming voices rooting for them to lose.

Yet, when one of them overcomes all the haters and wins, the haters try to get the rules changed so they can no longer compete. It’s Calvinball for transphobes.

For the record, when Killips was racing through the Tour of the Gila, she was operating completely within the regulations for transgender female athletes set forth by UCI. According to the organization’s policy, transgender women cyclists must “suppress their testosterone levels to 2.5nmol/L for a 24 month period” in order to be eligible for competition.

Now that Killips has won precisely one event, these rules apparently might no longer be good enough.

Austin Killips competes knowing that she makes an impact for her community.

After initially defending their regulations, UCI issued a subsequent statement.

“The UCI also hears the voices of female athletes and their concerns about an equal playing field for competitors, and will take into account all elements, including the evolution of scientific knowledge,” it reads.

As the UCI re-evaluates its policies, the organization should also take the time to hear the voices of female athletes like Killips.

In a Cycling News story following her victory, she said, “Existing publicly as an athlete has been new for me over the last couple of years. It is incredibly painful to be othered. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t divorce myself from the reality that I’m sharing the world with other queer and trans folks who see what I’m doing, and it has an impact.”

But because of that same triumph, UCI is reconsidering its rules to determine whether inspiring other trans folks might be illegal.

The cycling body’s decision could potentially echo others like World Rugby’s ban on trans women, World Athletics prohibiting trans women from competing in track and field and FINA ruling trans women are ineligible to compete in international swimming.

All because one trans athlete won one solitary event. As Outsports’ Karleigh Webb succinctly summed it up: “The real monster here is deeper perceptions of a cisgender populace that is largely uncomfortable with transgender people, and uncomfortable with them possibly winning in a sport.”

Unfortunately, that monster is the most difficult obstacle of all for transgender athletes to overcome.