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Politics and bike racing have collided in recent weeks as transgender legislation has come to the fore in several states. Some called for riders and brands to boycott states where transgender youth were banned from participating in sports with their identified gender. Ian Boswell opted for a different approach, wearing a simple sweatband in the colors of the transgender pride flag.
Boswell, a recently retired WorldTour pro who now work for Wahoo Fitness, traveled in May for the Rule of Three in Arkansas, a state that received the most attention from the cycling world for its transgender legislation. And on Saturday, he won Unbound Gravel in Kansas, arms aloft across the finishline with his transgender pride sweatband on his forearm.
“About a year ago my 16-year-old niece came out as transgender,” Boswell said. “Prior to that, it was a subject I had not put much thought into. I was in the era of my life where I focused on what directly affected me. So recently, I started to listen more.”
Boswell called around, first to Chris DiStefano, a longtime industry veteran and father to an adult transgender child. Then he talked to Molly Cameron, a bike racer and Portland Bicycle Studio owner who has been out as a transgender athlete for a number of years.
Cameron is selling the sweatbands as part of her efforts around inclusivity in cycling.
“This [sweatband] is a representation of trans athletes,” Boswell said. “There are a lot of people going through a challenging time, and I want to note how fortunate I am to be able to ride a bike, and not worry about so many things like health care. I am not part of the trans community, so I want to be cautious about what is right and wrong to do.”
Boswell ordered 15 sweatbands from Cameron, and handed out 14 of them on the start line of Unbound Gravel in Emporia, Kansas. He said some riders didn’t want to take one because they didn’t know what it was. Another rider didn’t want to wear it because of aerodynamic concerns.
“Some people are moving their family out of state because of politics that affect their family, and you are worried about your forearm?” Boswell said. “For me, it was a reminder during the race of riding for something besides a result.”
Boswell said transgender issues in cycling and the political world at large are complicated right now, and that he appreciated Cameron’s approach.
“What Molly is doing really resonated with me because she is not out to vilify brands or journalists,” Boswell said. “We are all learning, whether the terminology or the understanding of other people’s experiences. What I am doing is small, but I want to be supportive.”