Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Women’s cycling should be for women

Don’t follow the pack on “inclusivity” in sports

Artillery Row

It is clear to many of us that there is a growing number of men, of a certain type, who are really keen to force other men into women’s spaces and sports. The type is most appropriately called “irritating misogynist”. It’s a version of when rowdy boys would shove each other into the girls’ changing rooms at school for a laugh. The girls felt embarrassed and screamed; to some extent, the boy who had been thrown in was also embarrassed. The only truly happy ones were the jeering crowd of lads outside the door.

In the current trend of men pushing other men into women’s spaces, there is excitement to be had for the ones doing the pushing, but also for the ones being pushed. Most don’t seem to need a push at all, as in their deluded entitlement they grab a silk blouse and a slick of eyeliner as part of their “kit” and confidently stride into women’s spaces and sports. The only unhappy ones are the women having their sports and spaces accessed by men — but who cares about them?

This week a man most of us had never heard of before stepped forward to do some unnecessary and unwelcome pushing. His name is Josh Jones, a gay amateur cyclist, who somehow secured himself a spot on the BBC to discuss how dreadful it is that international cycling bodies have decided that their sport must guarantee fair competition for women. Josh is rather cross about such determined fairness for women and was keen to discuss “inclusivity” as a way to oppose it.

In a report for BBC Look East, Josh smilingly talked of the unfairness of cycling bodies who have “prevented transgender people from competing authentically”. Josh should remember that authenticity is about truth, and saying you are female when you are male is the least authentic you can be. It is the height of pretending. All that the cycling governing bodies have done is ensure that everyone can compete fairly with people of their own sex. No one has been prevented from cycling. The former “men’s” category is now an “open” category. This allows for men who say they are women to compete fairly and freely with other men, without any detriment to the women over whom they have been acknowledged to have a physical advantage.

The Look East presenter outlined Josh’s views, saying that whilst he has benefited from inclusion, “he’s angry that other LGBT+ members will now miss out”.

He isn’t specific about what they will miss out on. Perhaps cheating women out of their rightful podium places? Those men can compete with Josh, so whilst he happily chirps on about inclusivity, you have to wonder why his arms aren’t open to include them. Josh clearly doesn’t seem worried that women will miss out on opportunities in their own sport if men are allowed to compete there. The lesbian women in the “LGBT” aren’t a consideration for Josh; he has forgotten, in his rush towards inclusivity, to include mention of them. It seems to me that Josh is doing a lot of excluding in his demands for women to include men.

When Josh was asked to consider the fairness of the decision by the sporting bodies to uphold single-sex sport, he concluded, “Putting transgender women in an open category and not with women, essentially denies that transgender women are women. When you look at the entirety of the medical science currently there isn’t a convincing argument that transgender women do retain an advantage in the sport of cycling.”

He is essentially saying that if men can’t compete with women, then we don’t really believe they are women. He’s right. If he’s making the point that men who compete in the men’s category will be seen as men, then he’s also right. How else would they be seen? Women don’t exist to validate the identities of men, in sport or anywhere else. But Josh is also wrong. There are many convincing arguments that trans-identified men retain many of the advantages of male puberty even after taking hormone replacement therapy. Saying “but not in cycling” is plainly ridiculous. Lung capacity and muscle development alone have to secure advantages for men in women’s cycling.

The reporter told us that Josh “might step back from racing to fight for inclusion, which to him has become more important than titles”. It’s convenient that it has become more important than titles, now that titles will be less easy to attain as he ages. Josh is well aware that younger men will most likely beat him eventually, though he cannot see why men would beat women. How lovely for Josh that he has carved out a role for himself which allows him to step aside and straight into a role forcing women to compete with men.

Your sexuality won’t affect how fast you go against other men

Men who advocate for the rights of other men, over women’s right to fair sport, have nothing to lose in doing so. They can enjoy the feeling of being generous to their fellow fellas — and I don’t believe any of these blokes really think that those men are actual women — whilst simultaneously losing no advantages in their own sporting competition. They also won’t risk any uncomfortable incursion into the spaces they change. In fact, what they are losing from their daily lives is other men who would compete against them. They are increasing their chances in their own field of competition by offloading some of the men into women’s sport. This doesn’t sound very inclusive of those men. Instead, it sounds like standard misogyny. Women have raised objections, and these men don’t consider those objections to be nearly as important as the entitled demands of their brothers on bikes.

Such men think they are morally clean and proper, as they point at the dirty, unkind women wanting same sex competition and the nasty bodies who support them. The cycling bodies themselves are throwing around words like “precautionary” and don’t seem fully committed to long-term provision of the rules which protect women. Josh is aware that pressure can be applied. Whilst he smilingly appears on “Look East”, he is sneakily popping the “be kind” stick into the spokes of women.

Josh is not trans; he is a gay man and proud that he is, he believes, the first openly gay man to hold a world championship title in the sport of cycling. It is admirable that he is a role model for the inclusion of gay men in cycling. Being same-sex attracted shouldn’t change your ability to race a bike, but having a penis should determine which competition you ride it in. The issues are not the same. You aren’t having sex on your bike, and your sexuality won’t affect how fast you go against other men, but if you are bringing your penis along to the women’s competition — alongside all the benefits has brought you in socialisation and since then — that really does matter, and women don’t have to ignore it.

It would be nice if men like Josh realised that if they push other men through women’s changing room doors these days, their frat boy brothers won’t meet squealing girls covering their bums. They will meet sternly frowning, determined, educated women with our arms folded, who will turn them swiftly around again and tell them to take their hyperbolic blathering with them.

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