Peak Diddums

Paragraph one sets the scene…with a sudden plot twist at the end.

When she woke up on July 14, Chelsea Wolfe’s life was—in her own words—perfect. Her tickets were booked for Scotland, her registration for Freestyle BMX as part of Team USA was confirmed, her bags were partially packed, her training was going according to plan. She sat down to a bowl of cereal before heading to the bike park for a training session, and opened up Instagram. That’s where she learned that the UCI had just instituted a ban on trans athletes, starting in three days.

It’s not subtle. Eight iterations of “she” or “her” before getting to the trans part. Chelsea Wolfe is a man.

“My world crumbled in that moment,” she recalls, speaking to me on Zoom from her apartment in San Diego three weeks later—at the exact same time that the event she was supposed to compete in, Women’s Freestyle BMX, played out at Worlds. (American BMXer Hannah Roberts took her fifth title as we said goodbye.)

It’s his world that matters, you see. Not the world of the woman he would have displaced.

No matter where you currently stand in the debate over the right of trans women to compete, here’s the thing: It’s tempting to try to keep the debate in the realm of the academic, the esoteric. But it’s not. It’s about humans. When you’re discussing with your friends whether or not trans women should be able to compete in sport, you’re not talking about an abstract concept. You’re talking about a 30-year-old woman who’s currently on suicide watch. There isn’t a big bad wolf out there; there’s a small-boned, frankly adorable Wolfe out there, and she just had her life turned upside down.

No shit, but Wolfe is not the only human affected here, to put it mildly. Of course it’s about humans, and women are the humans who are being harmed by men like Wolfe. How stupid and captured and blinded do you have to be to overlook that? Especially by telling us he’s “frankly adorable”?

“It’s already been a rough life, and then they’re like, ‘Hey you know what’s a good idea? Let’s kick her while she’s down,’” Wolfe says with an ironic smile.

Uh huh. Now think about the women.

Before the UCI’s July 14 announcement that effectively banned trans women from competition starting July 17, Wolfe had been on top of the world. Not only was she part of Team USA, everything else was finally going her way. 

At the expense of the women he would be racing against. Maybe too much was going his way.

Vacillating between anger and sadness has become the norm for Wolfe. “Right now, I’m in a crisis and having urges to harm myself that feel uncontrollable. I am mourning the loss of this life that was just stolen from me,” she says. “But then I’m also thinking about how we need to fix this. The rage that I rightly feel having my life stolen from me is huge.”

Stolen from him. What about what he wanted to steal from women? What about their lives?

While Wolfe is working towards a legal resolution to the UCI’s ban—essentially, working on suing the UCI for the right to race—she recognizes that at 30 years old, even if she wins the case, it will likely be too late. The odds of a resolution before the 2024 Olympics are slim, and the average age of Freestyle BMX racers is getting younger and younger. It’s unlikely that if she does win, a return to racing at the level she’s at now will be possible. “They are stealing these years from me,” she says. “Regardless of whether or not we win in the long run, they are harming us now, and that harm can never be undone.”

He says, over and over and over, ignoring everything he is stealing from women.

Regardless of where you stand in the trans athlete debate, the mid-season abrupt shift in rules with a three day warning can only be considered cruel.

No, you’re wrong about that. I don’t consider it cruel to Wolfe, I consider it ending his sustained cruelty to his women rivals.

If it feels like a political move, that’s because it’s almost impossible to reject the idea that it is one. “Every single review of the rules around trans women competing has come immediately after a trans woman reaching any modicum of success within competition. So in 2018, it was Dr. Veronica Ivy winning a Masters World Championship track race.”

That’s because it’s not fair. It’s hard to believe the level of obstinate determined denial in this article.

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