I was 25 years old when I started my transition.
It was a choice I had been battling against for two decades. Growing up in a conservative Mormon household, as an athlete in a biologically male body, while identifying as female at the same time, set me up for a tumultuous upbringing. I hid from everything to stay alive.
Against all odds (believe me when I say that there were a lot), I did eventually find my way to my authentic self. In the first years of my transition, I found myself alone a lot of the time. As a freelance video editor I didn’t have a “nine to five.” The camaraderie I previously had with many of the colleagues I worked with seemed to fade away with the rest of my previous life.
When they talk about transgender people facing exorbitantly high suicide rates of 40%, It’s not because we find out later we were wrong. It’s because we find ourselves alone in the world, rejected by friends, family, colleagues our jobs and facing the massive wall of trying to make ends meet in every single sense of the word except for the acceptance of our identity. They conveniently leave that part out when they tell you about how insidious our motives are when we ask for inclusion in things like sports.
I’m a lucky one to be able to say that I survived one of those aforementioned suicide attempts. Somewhere along the line I rekindled a life-long passion for mountain biking. I sold my 10-year-old cross country bike my dad bought me in high school and bought a trail bike from a classifieds ad.
Buying that bike, at the time in my life that I did, saved me from a second attempt. It gave me purpose at a pivotal time when the world couldn’t handle me yet. It literally gave me something to do with all of my newfound “freedom” and I did it, a lot. I started making new friends who made me feel included, so much so that I decided to start racing.
Fast forward four years, a lot of life shifts, intense training and savings spent. I’ve slowly moved my way through amateur and expert racing to find myself racing enduro in the pro class. It’s been a long road to get where I am today and finding cycling has had a lot to do with it. The inclusion I have experienced from race coordinators and competitors alike has shaped me along the way. I’ve never won a race, I’ve never taken a sponsorship or prize away from another girl but when I do, you better believe I earned it just like anyone else.
Rep. Kera Birkeland, who has introduced Utah House Bill 302, tells you that you should be concerned with “men” competing in women’s sports. Joe Rogan, who has introduced many methods of being thoughtlessly intolerant, tells you that you should be appalled with “men” dominating over women’s sports. What they haven’t told you about is the overwhelming evidence that their moral scare tactics are baseless.
The International Olympic Committee and many other governing bodies base their regulations on science. Science that has proven, in every study done, that after some time on hormone therapy the athletic advantage, once present, disappears. This scientific evidence along with evidence of the precedent, offers an informed methodology to regulating competition and offering inclusion in a fair way for everyone.
For reference, there have been a total number of zero transgender people on an Olympic podium ever. Olympic guidelines for inclusivity have existed since 2004. The NCAA has had trans-inclusive policies for 10 years and only one trans athlete, Cece Tefler, has ever won a championship. Transgender people are not dominating women’s sports.
We should be listening to each other’s experiences and empathizing with one another. Our legislation should reflect that as well. Transgender youth in Utah face enough struggles simply making it to adulthood alive. Legislation that blocks these kids from participating in athletics is unconstitutional and it is damaging on so many other levels.
Blake Hansen, Salt Lake City, is a professional cyclist.