Dr. Rachel Mckinnon of Victoria, B.C., has become the first transgender athlete to win gold at the UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championship after she finished 1st in the women's age 35-44 age bracket. Mckinnon was born biologically male but now identifies as female after undergoing hormone therapy. In an interview with Velonews, she discussed her transition: "I was born with an 'M' on my birth certificate. Not all trans people are the same; we don't all know at age two or three. I started supposing I (was trans) when I was 13, and it took another 16 years to come to terms with it and figure it out. I started my transition right before I finished my Ph.D. and came out to the world two days after I defended my dissertation."
McKinnon is also an assistant professor at the College of Charleston Department of Philosophy who studies transgender issues. In July of this year, she posted a lecture she presented at the school entitled, "Including Trans Women Athletes in Sport," in response to those pointing to the ethics of her being allowed to compete.
While McKinnon argues that such inclusion is fair given the rules and regulations adopted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the bronze medalist of the Masters Track Cycling World Championship, Jennifer Wagner, had another opinion. "It's definitely NOT fair," she said in response to a tweet from conservative journalist Katie Hopkins.
As of 2015, updated IOC guidelines state that biologically born men who identify as transgender must block certain amounts of natural testosterone but don't have to undergo gender reassignment surgery, which was previously a rule. McKinnon says that hormone testing is against human rights because she thinks there haven't been sufficient studies to prove that testosterone provides an advantage.
"By catering to cisgender people's views, that furthers transgender people's oppression. When it comes to extending rights to a minority population, why would we ask the majority?" she said in an interview with USA Today. "I bet a lot of white people were pissed off when we desegregated sports racially and allowed black people. But they had to deal with it."
After facing some online backlash for her outcry, Wagner issued an apology a few days after her initial tweet, saying that she hoped McKinnon would accept late atonement. She then immediately followed that tweet with another explaining that she still has not "folded" from her view that transgender women should not be allowed to compete in women's cycling events, and that she's still fighting to change the rules. Not having any of it, McKinnon refused to accept what she viewed as a non-apology, saying that she thinks Wagner will fail in her attempts to ban transgender women.
McKinnon also warned that Wagner and other critics within the sport could face sanctions for violating the USA Cycling policy against harassment for "creating hostile environments or disparaging remarks against people on the basis of gender identity." No penalties have been levied thus far, so only time will tell the repercussion of this intense and complicated debate.
What do you think about this story? Should there be any limits placed on transgender athletes in any sport? Does McKinnon deserve her first place medal? Let us know in the comments down below!
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