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Trans Cyclist Opens Up About Hate Mail — and Death Threats

Rachel McKinnon

Rachel McKinnon says the hate directed toward her for competing against cisgender women is based on misconceptions about trans women athletes.

Transgender athlete Rachel McKinnon, who set a women's world record in track cycling in October, has opened up about the hate she has received from various quarters, including death threats.

In Manchester, England, she broke the masters women's world record in the 200-meter time trial for the 34-39 age category. In an op-ed for The New York Times, she noted that she broke the record by a small fraction of a second, and that her time was still slower than the women's record times in the 40-44 and 45-49 age categories.

"Soon after my win, Donald Trump Jr. threw a Twitter tantrum about me," she wrote in the Times piece, published Thursday. "I've seen a huge uptick in the volume of hate mail I've received in the weeks since. I have four people who monitor my Instagram to delete hateful messages; they've been overwhelmed by the volume. Twitter is far worse. I've received death threats, but I try not to dwell on them."

McKinnon, who had set another world record in 2018 and famously sparred with tennis champ Martina Navratilova over the latter's anti-trans comments, reported that the hate has come simply because she's a trans woman competing in the women's category. Some believe she has an advantage over cisgender women, but that's not true, she said.

"Some people think this is unfair because I used to have more testosterone in my body, once upon a time," she wrote. "They think this, even though my body hasn't been able to produce testosterone for seven years. I transitioned in 2012. My testosterone levels are so low that they're undetectable, and have been that way since 2012." She meets all the standards for her sport's governing body, which follows the rules of the International Olympic Committee.

"Some people think it's unfair because they claim my body developed differently than many other women's bodies," she continued. "But women come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and some elite cyclists are even bigger than me." And bigger doesn't always mean faster, she added. She pointed out that she loses most of her races and that she is "far from the fastest female track cyclist in the world." But "why should my right to compete be contingent on not winning?" she asked.

Allowing trans women athletes to compete against cisgender women, she concluded, "is not the beginning of the end of women's sports."

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