Chelsea Fietsgodin wowed the BMX scene when she first released footage of herself riding, and in a recent interview she has messages for her detractors and for other women in sports.
When online BMX magazine The Come Up posted an impressive video of 21-year-old transgender biker Chelsea Fietsgodin in May, editor Adam LZ says he wasn’t prepared for the backlash. He simply wanted to introduce their readers to one of the sport’s up-and-coming female riders.
But he soon encountered some viewers lashing out against Fietsgodin’s trans status, questioning if she should be included among the ranks of women riders — an argument that echoes the experiences other trans women partaking in women’s sports.
"The question of Chelsea’s gender had been brought up in a rather crude fashion," LZ recalls, so he asked Fietsgodin to discuss her experiences with the wider biking community. BMX, he points out, is not as progressive a sport as many believe, and the closet for LGBT players continues to remain closed unless space is intentionally opened.
In the interview last month, Fietsgodin — who reveals that her last name is a professional pseudonym which translates to “bike goddess” in Dutch — has a self-assuredness that belies the fear she’s felt about opening herself up to others’ reactions.
"It’s amazing how quickly a few people started shouting stuff about me being a man because I can ride a bike well and I’ve got strong legs (which, shockingly, happen when you ride bikes everyday)," she shares.
"That says a lot about what they think of women riders. They can’t let us have success so they try to take our accomplishments as their own, in this case by misgendering me. I see this happening for cisgender [nontrans] women athletes as well," she continues.
Fietsgodin also explains how accusations that she “cheated” at women’s BMX by being transgender kept her from releasing any videos of herself riding until now. She was only able to overcome internalized sexism and transphobia with “a combination of support from other girl riders and analyzing where those thoughts came from.”
"The big thing to realize … is that I’m not here to compete with other women and girls riding, I’m here to have fun on my bike and push the progression of women’s riding and our acceptance within the sport," she says, reminding readers that BMX freestyle was never intended to be competitive.
"I think a big problem stems from women riders being pitted against one another as if there can only be one of us that’s the best in the world."
Read the full interview here and catch the video — originally titled “Is This the Best Girl BMX Rider Ever?” by The Come Up — below.
WASHINGTON — More than two years after the issue was first raised, the Labor Department on Tuesday announced it “will issue guidance to make clear that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination based on sex.”
The decision follows the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s 2012 decision that sex discrimination prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act includes discrimination based on transgender status.
Since then, however, the Labor Department had refused to say whether it was applying the ruling in Mia Macy’s EEOC case to its own enforcement of the current executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of, among other factors, sex. After the department avoided answering or even being questioned about the issue, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said earlier this year that the issue was under review.
Perez announced in a blog post Tuesday, however, that the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is responsible for enforcing Executive Order 11246, and it will now be issuing the guidance.
“[W]e are updating enforcement protocols and anti-discrimination guidance to clarify that we provide the full protection of the federal non-discrimination laws that we enforce to transgender individuals,” Perez wrote.
In substance, he then explained:
These changes reflect current law. In Macy v. Holder, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded that discrimination because a person is transgender is sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Civil Rights Center, along with the Employment and Training Administration, will issue guidance to make clear that discrimination on the basis of transgender status is discrimination based on sex. While the department has long protected employees from sex-based discrimination, its guidance to workers and employers will explicitly clarify that this includes workers who identify as transgender. The department will continue to examine its programs to identify additional opportunities to extend the law’s full protection against discrimination to transgender workers.
The announcement came a day after President Obama announced that he had directed his staff to prepare an executive order to ban gender identity-based discrimination in federal employment. It also follows the June 16 announcementfrom the White House that Obama had asked for an executive order to be drafted that would provide explicit protections to federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.