Transgender cycling champion Rachel McKinnon unapologetically displayed her powerlifting prowess in an Instagram video Wednesday.
McKinnon, the first and only trans cyclist to win a world title, announced in the post that she had achieved a new personal best by deadlifting 445-pounds. A year ago, she said, she had topped out at just 415 pounds, starting her long list of triumphant hashtags with “#gains.”
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In the video, McKinnon – buffed and tatted with short pink hair – gets herself pumped up before pumping out two sets with the massive barbell.
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New PB of 445lbs today…and I was doing sets of 3!! Almost exactly a year ago, I lifted a single 415lb. Now I'm doing a set of 3 for speed. #gains #rainbowfoxracing #rainbowfox #worldchampion #herthighness #quaddess #quadzilla #quadgoals #thefutureisfoxy #wtfsracebikes #sprinter #trackcycling #cycling #racing #sportisahumanright #inclusivesport #lgbtq #lgbtqsport #transathlete #transrightsnow #transinclusivesport #girlslikeus #socialchange #socialjustice #transvisibilty #olympichopeful #transgender #inspiration * * * °@fujibikes Bike °@fsa_road Chainrings, stem °@vision_tech_usa Crankset, chainrings, wheels °@lazersportusa Helmet, sunglasses °@vie13_kustom_apparel Speedsuit * Coach: @empiricalcycling Pro Ambassador for @athleteally
Last October, McKinnon – a Canadian athlete and University of Charleston philosophy professor – won the women’s sprint 35-39 age bracket at the UCI Masters Track Cycling World Championships in Los Angeles. That made her the first trans cyclist to win a world title.
The news set off a social media firestorm about whether trans women should be allowed to compete against biological females. On one extreme were those who argued that trans athletes like McKinnon have an unfair advantage over the competition. On the other were advocates of the absolute right of trans people to be treated as members of the gender they identify with, including in cycling.
After celebrating her historic victory, McKinnon argued that she had won despite what she deemed unfair and unhealthy restrictions on her testosterone levels imposed by the The Union Cycliste Internationale, which generally follows the relatively liberal guidelines of the International Olympic Committee.
Well, no, I'm still forced to have an unhealthily low endogenous testosterone value…it's virtually undetectable it's so low…way below the average for women. https://t.co/yoSsTF6BI5
— Dr. Rachel McKinnon (@rachelvmckinnon) October 14, 2018
Under the Olympic Committee’s rules, trans men can compete without restrictions, while trans women must pass tests demonstrating that their testosterone levels do not exceed a certain level. Other sports governing bodies, including the NCAA, have stricter regulations.
Contrary to McKinnon, who has cited studies showing no relationship between testosterone levels and athletic performance, some researchers say trans athletes indeed have a leg up when it comes to speed and power.
On Wednesday, USA Powerlifting, a leading American powerlifting organization, outright banned all trans competitors, saying male-to-female athletes have a biological advantage whereas female-to-male athletes have a hormonal one. The decision came after JayCee Cooper, a trans woman, had her application to compete in a women’s powerlifting event in Minnesota denied.
Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota responded this Tuesday by announcing that she had requested an investigation of USA Powerlifting for banning transgender athletes from competing in its events. Omar tweeted out a copy of a letter to the head of USA Powerlifting dated Jan. 31, in which she the urged the organization to lift its “discriminatory, unscientific policy.”
All of these institutions are at stake in a legislative fight brewing over transgender-rights legislation that is brewing in Washington. Most prominently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she will use her new Democratic majority to advance the Equality Act, a bill that would codify protections against LGBT discrimination, including special guarantees for trans people to be regarded in federal spaces according to their self-identified gender rather than their biological sex.
However, not everyone has gotten on board. A number of “trans-exclusionary radical feminists,” as they are derogatorily called on the left, last month sought to block the Equality Act by aligning with conservatives and in one case ambushing a transgender woman who was advocating for the bill on Capitol Hill.
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