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Molly Cameron takes on Arkansas’ anti-trans legislation

Cyclocross veteran Molly Cameron has become the focal point of the U.S. cycling scene in the wake of Arkansas' anti-trans legislation.

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Molly Cameron’s phone has been buzzing non-stop this week, with calls and texts pouring in from bicycle brands, event promoters, and even other cyclists.

Everyone has a similar set of questions, and all the inquiries focus on the state of Arkansas, the new epicenter of U.S. cycling that, in recent weeks, has also passed discriminatory legislation against transgender people.

Cameron is transgender, and she’s also a veteran racer in the U.S. cyclocross scene. She operates the Point S Auto-Nokian Tyres pro team and also owns a bike shop, Portland Bicycle Studio. Her individual experiences have placed her in the midst of a national discussion that she did not start, but one she feels compelled to influence.

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“I couldn’t even list all of the conversations with all of the brands I’ve spoken to at this point,” Cameron told VeloNews. “I don’t expect brands to rush in and do the hard work on this human-rights advocacy, because this is way off their radar and these brands feel that this impacts not even a percentage of a percentage point of their consumer base, so I can understand that thinking as a business person. But as a transgender person that wants to improve the world for all people, and someone invested in cycling, what I’m trying to drive home is less words, more action, and not symbolic action. No more statements. It’s time for action.”

 

Cameron is pushing for brands and individuals to donate to groups that are working to fight the legislation, such as the American Civil Liberties Union. She also wants brands and organizations to reach out to trans individuals for feedback before they put out statements or go through with actions.

And Cameron wants companies and individuals to disseminate facts about transgender inclusion in sports. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the International Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and even the National Interscholastic Cycling Association all have rules that allow transgender people to participate in sports.

One of the Arkansas bills prohibits trans people under the age of 18 from participating in women’s sports.

“Let’s disseminate the facts, and there are a lot of them. Right now being transgender or non-binary is such an unknown community that most people are ignorant about. The regular Joe Schmo won’t know that [IOC and NCAA and others] allow them [to participate] and there already exist rules governing transgender participation in all sport.”

Cameron has previously spoken out about transgender rights in the U.S. cycling scene, but her work around LGBTQ communities has often gone on behind the scenes. That changed last month after the Arkansas legislature began pushing through anti-trans laws, including House Bill 1570, the so-called Save Adolescents From Experimentation Act, which denies transgender individuals under the age of 18 access to gender-affirming care.

That law has been labeled “the single most extreme anti-trans law ever to pass through a state legislature,” by Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice for the ACLU.

Cameron was upset by the passage of the law and began denouncing the rules on social media. Then, she penned a column for Bicycling.com addressing the laws, and also Arkansas’s lofty place within the U.S. cycling scene.

The state is slated to host the 2022 UCI world championships for cyclocross, as well as a cyclocross World Cup. Plus, Arkansas is home to the Walton family of global giant Wal-Mart, who have funded bike business and an extensive bike trail network across the state.

“I ache for the young people who will be affected by these laws, who won’t be able to access critical healthcare or know the joy of playing sports and being welcome and accepted into an athletic community,” Cameron wrote in the column. “If there is a general Arkansas boycott, these events and brands and cities must realize that while it may feel unfair, it is far more unfair to the people being oppressed.”

The ban on trans participation in sports is particularly harmful, Cameron said. Denying trans athletes access to sports deprives an already vulnerable group a chance at creating community at an important time in their lives. As a teenager, Cameron said she felt like an outcast. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that she discovered competitive cycling and the community that came along with the sport.

Cameron pointed to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics that said nearly 30 percent of transgender female adolescents — and 50 percent of transgender males —had attempted suicide.

“There’s this fear of opening the flood gates to these trans women who are just publicly perceived as men in wigs who are beating up on poor girls. And really what they’re doing is limiting [trans] acceptance into the community,” Cameron said. “Trans kids are already marginalized by everyone around them. Kids are mean and now their institutions are mean and brutal too.”

In the wake of the legislation, there have been calls on social media to boycott the two cyclocross events, as well as bike brands located in Arkansas, or brands tied to the Walton family. Allied Cycle Works is based in Little Rock, and the Walton family owns a controlling stake in apparel giant Rapha, which sponsors a wide range of teams and individual riders.

Earlier this week the Walton family’s charitable foundation released a statement calling the state’s policy “harmful.”

“We are alarmed by the string of policy targeting LGBTQ people in Arkansas. This trend is harmful and sends the wrong message to those willing to invest in or visit our state,” the statement said.

Cameron has discussed the merits and shortcomings of a boycott in her Bicycling column, and also in her social media posts. She isn’t yet convinced that a blanket boycott of the events or the businesses will bring about change. That perspective could shift in the future, Cameron said, and calling for a future boycott is not off the table.

“It’s not that boycotting won’t impact things, and it’s not that I’m defending the events or worried about hurting the events. I just think a general boycott at this point isn’t even a band-aid on a much bigger problem,” Cameron said. “It’s not going to impact the people who have the power to make real change. Having these conversations is a better start. Where do these marginalized folks put their anger and outrage, and what do you do with that? How do we transition that from less shouting to more effective change? That’s what I’m circling around right now.”