Chicago, IL – December 8, 2023
In the aftermath of an amateur cycling championship, an Illinois cyclist who secured the third position is challenging critics who claim she was unfairly surpassed by two transgender competitors. Kristen Chalmers, the cyclist in question, is speaking out against what she deems as “ridiculous” headlines and is set to publish an open letter alongside fellow cisgender women who competed in the Illinois State Cyclocross Championship.
Chalmers, who finished third in the women’s single-speed championship, faced backlash after the event from conservative pundits expressing outrage at transgender athletes participating in women’s sports. The podium picture featuring Chalmers alongside transgender cyclists Tessa Johnson, 25, and Evelyn “Casey” Williamson, 30, drew attention and criticism from various quarters, including tennis legend Martina Navratilova.
Despite the controversy, Chalmers maintains a positive perspective, stating, “It would be ridiculous to say that my life has been ruined by getting third. I had a great race, and it would have been more boring if it had been a smaller field without such strong competitors in it.”
Chalmers and her fellow cyclists have crafted an open letter expressing their unwavering support for Johnson and Williamson. In the letter, they reject being portrayed as victims and emphasize the importance of inclusion in sports. The letter reads, “We refuse to be falsely presented as victims in a manufactured controversy driven to further alienate and marginalize those most vulnerable within our community, in service of rampant and harmful anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. We speak for ourselves: inclusion makes our sport and community stronger. Everyone is welcome here. Trans women are women.”
The Illinois State Cyclocross Championship operates under the more inclusive policies of USA Cycling, distinguishing it from recent changes in international sports federations. While top cycling federation Union CyclisteInternationale implemented new restrictions on transgender athletes in elite women’s events, amateur events like the one in Illinois adhere to USA Cycling’s more inclusive guidelines.
The controversy surrounding this event reflects the ongoing challenge faced by sports federations in striking a balance between inclusion, fairness, and addressing pushback against transgender athletes. The lack of consensus and scientific evidence on the topic further complicates the formulation of evidence-based policies.
In the United States, regulations have been enacted in 24 states to limit the participation of transgender athletes in school sports teams to align with their “gender identity.” The Biden administration proposed a federal policy in April to counter blanket bans on transgender athletes but has faced delays in the rollout of final rules, anticipated this fall.
The incident in Illinois adds to the broader conversation on the complex intersection of sports, gender identity, and inclusivity, urging a closer examination of policies at various levels of competition.