Most know that Dr. Veronica Ivy is as determined to lay out the facts on trans inclusion in sports as she is to power through the high banks of a velodrome.
The first out transgender woman to win a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) masters world championship is known by many and seen as infamous by some as an athlete-activist.
The term “activist” is one the Canadian didn’t set out to describe herself.
“I went into this just wanting to race my bike. I never wanted to be this activist that I’ve become, but I feel like it was forced upon me,” she said. “I was getting the results and I had the skill set, and the platform to use for good.”
In a far-reaching interview on this week’s edition of The Trans Sporter Room, Ivy discussed navigating the media crush through UCI world titles in the match sprints in 2018 and 2019.
“It was the first time I was really in the zone and just focused on racing,” she said as she recalled UCI worlds in Los Angeles in 2018. “It was pure. It was perfect. It was the best way to win a championship.”
“I didn’t get to celebrate the championship for an entire week afterward. It was wall-to-wall interviews.”
The backlash intensified the following year. 2019 UCI World Masters was in Manchester, England, at the ascendency of the anti-trans sentiment that now defines Great Britain for some. In the middle of defending her title, Ivy was the subject to a high level of media scrutiny.
At one point, she put out a point-by-point press release to counter allegations by those calling for cycling’s world governing body to disqualify her.
In the match sprint final Ivy defeated American Dawn Orwick to earn a second consecutive world title. Her victory lap featured a small trans flag waving aloft.
Transphobic people, especially in certain media outlets, sought to make Ivy their object lesson. While teaching as a professor at College of Charleston (S.C.), she found death threats amongst her mail. She has engaged with all comers from Breitbart to Abigail Shirer, whom Ivy meet face-to-face and faced down during a 2019 discussion broadcasted by Fox Nation.
She’s put a greater emphasis on caring for herself since then. She noted she became more selective on interview requests. In 2020, Ivy left a professor’s position in the U.S. that had grown acrimonious to move back, or “escape” as she put it, to her native Canada.
The mix of dealing with working in a country that has a number of states considering and passing anti-trans legislation, inner evaluation, and seeing signs of mental fatigue and burnout, prompted a change in priorities.
“My well-being comes first, then training, then social justice stuff,” she emphasized. “I have to be healthy first to do the things I care about. I really care about the athlete aspect of my life and I care about the advocacy and activism, but if you you burn out your own well-being, you can’t do the other stuff.”
Ivy is working as a diversity and inclusion instruction consultant these days. She’s also in training to prepare for UCI World Masters Championships, returning after a 2-year hiatus due to COVID, later this year. She’s also kept a finger on the pulse of the trans inclusion debate in sports.
“It is amazing that she performed as well as she did given the circumstances,” Ivy noted. “I think she is doing everything right. If she chooses to use her platform? It is powerful, but it is fraught.”
She was highly critical of the actions of the NCAA, who scrapped a trans inclusion policy that had been in place for a decade for a mid-season overhaul that the organization later reconsidered.
Many, including Ivy, said the NCAA’s sudden u-turn was a response to pressure against Thomas competing.
“They have had a decent transgender policy for a decade,” she said. “They developed the most progressive policy in the world at that time. When a transgender woman gets close to the door they throw it all out. It is the most cowardly thing I have ever seen.”
Away from preparing to compete and continuing to make an impact, Ivy says she’s in a happier place internally. She also notes that the boost she gets from other trans people rooting for her keeps her going.
“You ask me where I get my trans joy,” she continued. “It comes from trans people messaging me, out of the blue, saying ‘I saw you win a race and that inspired me to go to the gym for the first time’ or to get back on the bike. Those messages of support are my trans joy.”
Dr. Veronica Ivy is a person we’ve wanted to beam up for a long time. Her observations on number of issues, including being a part of process of building the IOC’s new inclusion framework, were worth the wait!
Check out the full interview on the latest edition of The Trans Sporter Room now available on Megaphone, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts, and many other platforms for Outsports podcasts as well.