Athletes and activists see Fayetteville World Cup as an opportunity to challenge trans legislation


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This spring, the passage of anti-trans legislation in Arkansas sparked a few days of outrage on social media in parts of the cycling community. Many have called for a boycott of events in the state, particularly a 2021 Cyclocross World Cup and the 2022 World Cross Championships.

The World Cup arrives in Fayetteville on Wednesday, and the uproar over the ethics of holding bike races in Arkansas has largely died down.

Now, some athletes and activists have focused on in-person dialogues at events, in the hopes that presence will prove more powerful than absence.

Austin Killips, a trans woman who races with Pratt Racing and was named by USA Cycling as a Fayetteville World Cup alternate, said if she had had the opportunity to compete in Arkansas she would have, without no doubt.

“Our team and I were all set to go out there and line up, run and participate, Killips said. VeloNews. “I think it’s an important thing to do. I understand the desire and motivation of some people to boycott. And why people who are not runners who will not feel safe visiting, as a spectator or as a racing fan. But I felt that if it had happened, it would have been symbolically significant. Whatever your legislation, the rules of the sport in which we participate say something else. So we’re going to show up and run and do the thing.

In April, some mountain bikers grappled with the decision to attend U.S. Cup events in Fayetteville after several anti-trans bills were passed in Arkansas House. Although most athletes – and brands – ultimately chose to attend the event, some denounced the invoices by issuing statements, selling merchandise with messages of support, or, in the case of athletes, by denouncing the invoices. adorning their bikes or bodies with symbols of support.

Killips said she saw similar behavior during the initial 2021 cross-season.

“It was reassuring and affirming to see the whole RIDE [Riders Inspiring Diversity and Equality] armbands at the races ”, she declared. “We get the impression that there is a lot of support and solidarity there. It doesn’t feel like it’s an elephant in the room that no one is discussing.

The idea of ​​a boycott of all things cycling in Arkansas seems to have largely run out of steam. Some in sport believe that for a boycott to be effective, it must come from the same place as the dollars – the industry itself, not individual runners.

“You choose Arkansas as the place to boycott, and then it’s like this legislation goes through a lot of state legislatures,” Killips said. “I think that a boycott to be effective, it cannot be an individual thing. I think it should have been something organized collectively. Even the boycott of runners is not as important as the promoters and the various brands associated with it. In some ways, I feel like the ship sailed as a strategy to exert pressure. It does not appear to be a useful tactic to step in and change these bills.

Killips did not make the selection for Fayetteville, but she will be competing in JingleCross. (Photo: Kyle Helson)

Instead, attention has shifted to organizations on the ground, in Arkansas and across the country, working to combat the ill effects of the legislation. According to Lauren Hildreth, events manager for Bike NWA, a cycling advocacy organization in northwest Arkansas, bike races provide an opportunity to spread the message that anti-trans legislation is destructive to communities. , families and individuals, but they are not necessarily the problem.

“It’s not really about the bikes,” she said. “This is a problem faced by humans who live in these states. Bikes are a way to reach more people, new people. We are trying to get the attention of the cycling community and hope that others from our Northwest Arkansas community will participate as well. There is an intersectionality of queer organizations or LGBTQ groups and BIPOC groups and advocacy groups for marginalized populations reminding people that these issues are always facing members of their communities.

Tuesday evening before Wednesday’s World Cup, Bike NWA is organizing a Pass the Mic session, “a roundtable whose purpose is to bring the community together to listen, learn, identify and solve problems to support diversification into cycling, trails and active transportation, ”said Hildreth.

Molly Cameron, Elyse Rylander, Cody Stuessy and KC Cross make up the Pass the Mic panel ahead of Wednesday’s World Cup race in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Hildreth will host Tuesday’s panel, which is free and open to the public and will be streamed live on the organization’s Facebook page. Panelists include trans activist and professional cyclist Molly Cameron; Elyse Rylander, Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion at Quality Bicycle Products and founder of OUT There Adventures; Cody Steussy, assistant director at Rogers Activity Center and founder of NWA Pride Peddlers; and KC Cross, mental health and performance clinician at the University of Arkansas.

Hildreth said Cameron was instrumental in continuing to pressure the sport and the cycling industry to stay involved in the conversation.

“Based on where our community is located and Molly’s involvement, we really wanted to bring that back to the forefront,” she said. “The issues don’t just affect Arkansas, but many other states and communities. It’s easy when you don’t mind forgetting that a problem exists. We continue to remind people that this impacts their neighbors, other people, their families, people they may know and don’t realize.

While the effects of anti-trans legislation have implications that extend far beyond bikes and even sports, many believe that Arkansas’ massive claim to cycling comes with the responsibility to speak out. name of the persons concerned.

Cross, the academic mental health clinician, believes that as long as Arkansas stakeholders continue to portray the state as a cycling “capital”, encouraging tourism and attracting event promoters, they should also use the platform for good.

“If we are going to do it [races]we have to try to influence the cycling community, ”said Cross. “I really don’t think the people of Northwest Arkansas are for nothing or are transphobic, but the silence speaks volumes. If you allow these races to happen, let’s not just say, ‘we’re here for the bikes and we’re here for the race’, let’s use that as an opportunity to push for a more positive, more tolerant and more loving program. . “

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