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By Alyssa Plant


A young athlete retires mysteriously at the peak of her career. Her reasons why are a private pain.

Bikepark Leogang, Austria
Thumping music and a cheering crowd echoed around the forest canopy. There’s rarely a more wild and happy atmosphere in the world than a Downhill Mountain Bike race in full swing. There’s music, fast riders, crashes, alcohol and food. You could say that it’s a party where a race breaks out.

No amount of music could lift Alex Carter’s spirits. The chime of bells or the revving of chainsaw engines used to fill her with such joy and vitality. They were the sounds of her passion; her world cheering her on as she gave her everything to that one run down the hill. One single terrifying run that counted for everything. From the top to the finish line at the bottom, through an evolving course that seemed to shift with each rider down, it was exhilarating. The cameras, the crowds and the exotic locations truly made it an amazing world to be a part of.

It felt so very different to be sitting trackside watching the race rather than blasting past inside the tape. She’d been to races before as a spectator of course. She had partied with friends at local events and regionals, even the pro races before she had gotten her own shot. The party atmosphere seemed to flow around her like she was a rock in a stream, her own little spot of dirt was an island free of joy, just regret. Leaning against a tree, hanging back from the crowd while they clamored to cheer on the next rider down felt so very isolated.

Why had she fallen in love with this sport? She could have been happy just riding her bike, enjoying the trails, and being perfectly content. She would have been untouched, unmolested by hate and misunderstanding. It was a strange beast, a sport that people competed in for different reasons. For many, it was the joy of competition that empowered them to be their best selves. The companionship and camaraderie of the event gave them joy to find something in themselves and others that they had only dreamed existed. For others, it was to challenge themselves and prove their mettle. To take on the greatest and prove that they deserved to be called the very best.

For Alex, it had given her a sense of belonging. She had worked with the other girls, trained with them and they had enjoyed challenging each other. They battled one another to set faster and faster times, finding new lines, and shaving off tenths of seconds. It was a different atmosphere to the men's field. Amongst the women, they were competitive sure, all of them wanted to win. To be a winner, to be the champion was everything, but it was different. First and foremost, they were in this together. They were riding for their passion of all things two-wheeled. They were pushing each other onward and no matter who finished where, they were friends.

“You look miserable.”

Alex glanced up to see a young blonde woman in sponsored race gear grinning at her. “You miss it don’t you?” she asked, her French accent strong.

Alex nodded wordlessly, a sad quirk of her lip conveying her feelings.

The woman slipped down to sit beside her and shoulder-bumped her as she stared out into the back of the oblivious crowd. “When you announced you were retiring, the girls were a bit surprised to be honest. We’ve all come back from worse injuries and continued. Was it really that bad that you couldn’t race?”

Alex rolled her shoulder where her separated collarbone had taken her out of the last few rounds of the previous season. “It’s better now,” she admitted begrudgingly. “I’m back riding again, but it won’t ever be this.”

Amélie Dumont gave a Gaelic shrug of dismissal and eyed Alex carefully, “So why quit? You could be running again this season It might even have been your shot.”

Alex sighed and glanced away. “It was for the best, there’s less drama this way. I slip away on a medical excuse and nobody asks any questions; easy.”

Dumont raised an eyebrow and looked at her friend curiously. Alex glanced at the crowd and shook her head before pulling herself to her feet. Gesturing at the Frenchwoman to follow, she picked her way through the undergrowth and deeper into the forest. The light filtered down through the dense canopy, dappling the forest floor below them as they walked in silence for a few minutes until the race was a dull blur in the background behind them.

Turning to face her former rival, a girl who had nearly always beaten her, Alex smiled ruefully and wiped a tear from her before explaining what she couldn’t say in public. “Amélie, I had to retire, because they banned me from competing.”

“Merde! For what reason?” the Frenchwoman exclaimed with a snarl, “You’ve never done anything worthy of it.”

Alex shifted awkwardly and glanced away to focus her thoughts. “Amélie, they banned me from competing with the women because I wasn’t born as one.”

“That trans thing the UCI pushed a few months ago? Wait, you’re… one of… you’re that?”

Alex nodded sadly and blushed, unable to meet the woman’s gaze, “yes.”

The two stood in silence for several moments before Alex felt an arm on her own. Glancing up, she met Dumont’s gaze and flushed pink. “I’m sorry,” she muttered quietly. “You must feel like I deceived you.”

“Whatever for ma chérie? You are apologizing for being yourself? You have harmed no one at all. Non, no, Alex, I do not hate you. Am I surprised? Oui, you are a pretty girl. I would never have guessed it.” Amélie smiled and hugged the young woman.

Separating from the hug, Alex wiped her eyes and sat down heavily on a nearby log. She felt no guilt at living in stealth, keeping this part of herself from others. Truly, it didn’t matter to them. This was her story, her existence and her right to be taken as what she had always known she was. It wasn’t their business, and she was comfortable with that. The relief she felt now was different. She felt relief that she could now share her pain at the organizing body’s decision. That another person she knew could understand why had done what she did. She waited for her friend to join her before she began to explain her story.

“I transitioned back when I was a teenager, ten years ago when I was Fifteen,” she admitted. “I came out to my parents and I saw psychiatrists, all that stuff. I was able to graduate high school as a girl and I had surgery on my eighteenth birthday. I’ve only ever competed on the pro circuit as a girl. Hell, I only ever rode a mountain bike since I transitioned. Now? I can’t compete at all.”

“They said you can race in the open class… but we don’t have that category for downhill do we?” Amélie grimaced as she realized the technicality. “It would be ridiculous to have you racing against the men. They would destroy you, they destroy even my times.”

“I couldn’t do it, even if I could keep up with them Amé, it would be humiliating. Everyone would know about me; I’d be a joke.” Alex sighed. “Amélie, I don’t have the size, or muscle to compete with the men. I don’t even have an advantage over the other girls. You, Marie, Sarah, and Jo beat the crap out of me on power and endurance most times out. The assholes out there that hate us claim with no medical experience whatsoever that I’ve got bigger and stronger bones than you, that my muscle is just… better.”

Amélie chuckled, “You might be slower, but you are a rabbit when it comes to technique, it makes up I think.”

Alex grinned, a sliver of happiness showing through her sadness for a brief time at the woman’s respect.

“They say it’s all in the name of fairness for women’s sports. According to them, it’s not fair that I compete with you because of some arbitrary fact that some people might have an advantage. That some person might decide to compete with the boys for years then just drop of the hat switch to our series and kick our asses.”

Amélie looked at her friend sitting beside her. Alex stood close to her own five foot six and her trim athletic figure was plain to see through her shorts and tank top. The girl looked almost exactly the same as she did when she wasn’t wearing armor under her shorts and jersey. “It seems unfair to treat it as a blanket ban. To force you to race openly if you want a chance at all is cruel. I should think this is your business and nobody else's.” Amélie thought about Alex’s last words and chuckled, “You said come in and kick our asses.”
Alex shrugged, “Yeah, it’s our series, I can’t think of myself as anything but female these days.”

Amélie nodded and smiled, “Even now Chére, I don’t see you otherwise.”

“You’re not mad that I never told you?”

Amélie shook her head. “Non, no Alex, I am not. This is your private business and not mine. All I see before me is a pretty lady and a bitch to try and beat down the hill. You’re clearly not into this to sneak a look at my boobies if that boy toy of yours is anything to go by.” she chuckled. “He knows, yes?”

Alex nodded, “yeah, he’s known since we met. I was very lucky to find someone so understanding. He's my everything.”

“Then why not continue to race and screw them? They don’t have to know.”

“UCI know,” Alex sighed. “They had to, even though it was the past. They know from drug tests, and they know because I told them. It used to be fine, I was more than fine… I passed their requirements and they left it there. The media never had anything to go on and it was all just so much a fact of my past. This stupid ruling meant that if it did come to light, that I was forced to run another category, or it got out into the press it would destroy Mathew, I couldn’t allow that to happen to him.”

“I can understand that,” Amélie nodded grimly. “You give up your passion to protect him from this. That is love.”

Alex nodded sadly, “selfishly, myself too. You see what they do to people like me.”

Amélie shook her head and placed her hand on Alex’s arm. “A person like you is a beautiful, kind, funny happy girl. Nothing more, nothing less. You earned your spot amongst us, you proved you belong here. I have seen you ride, I have seen you train, and I have seen the kind of woman you are. There is no man here with us,” Amélie insisted, " no man here at all.”

“Tell them that.” Alex spat, kicking a twig. “Tell them that I’m a human being who deserves dignity and respect. I’m a person that has feelings and hopes, dreams and passion. Tell them Amélie, because they took mine without blinking an eye and forced me into this situation, they forced it on any of us competing at every level from pro to amateur… why? Because none of us are seriously going to become pariahs and compete as a third category. That is, even if there was enough of us to do so.”

“They are so obsessed with what is a woman,” Amélie snorted. “The American politicians, they talk the same way in France also. They say what is a woman? Then they make it all about our uterus and periods; having babies and things like that. It is funny, no? To them, all we are is a baby factory on legs. No uterus? Useless, why even be a woman if you cannot do all we are good for non?”

Alex smiled sadly at the idea. “While I wish I had a uterus of my own for selfish reasons, you are right; they don’t see us as people. They do not see that we are capable of everything they are. Women can be doctors or police officers. Academics, scientists, astronauts. We can be athletes or mothers, artists or architects… a woman is whatever she wants to be.”

“Bon, you get it, and that’s what makes you a woman Alex.” Amélie smiled. “It is not like I was born a woman. I was a girl, you were not. We both grew up and became women because of what we experienced. We learned, lived, loved, and fought for it. It was different perhaps,” she shrugged. “The path we took, but we both got there in the end. We got there because we both earned it.”

“I’ll still come to the races you know,” Alex offered looking over at a woman she had called both a friend and rival. “It’s just going to be hard to get over my regrets.”

Amélie smiled as she ran her hand through her hair. “Ma Chérie, it is impossible to live life without regrets. We won’t get everything right that we wanted. But our regrets, those things we wish were different go on to shape what we do in the future. They go on to fuel our success.”


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Thank you for this

While I am not into sports, this was very beautiful and poignant, Thank you sharing your gift with us

too real

"We won’t get everything right that we wanted."



The Cruelty

joannebarbarella's picture

Of blanket decisions, taken largely by a committee of men. And if you counted all the transgender women in each sport, how many would it add up to?

Can anyone explain why it has suddenly become a political issue when we are talking about maybe one tenth of a percent of the competitors in any particular sport. Is it because there are votes in it for the Nazis, Fascists and TERFS who promote exclusion?


Kit's picture

In the US at least its a wind up to an election.... the right need their 'omg be afraid' point... it was migrants in the last election, they got rid of Roe V Wade... so trans are the new scary evil.

I like Turtles.

Hit the nail right on the

Hit the nail right on the head here.
It’s sad but true.
Stay safe

I have watched downhill racing

Angharad's picture

They spend as much time in the air as on the ground, I would never have had the balance or coordination or guts to do it. Mind you I wouldn't have had the strength to do mountain bike or road racing either, due originally to a back injury, and now my stroke. I have difficulty walking on rough ground especially with a gradient, so those who do it have my admiration. As for trans issues, there are more people coming out as trans often after doing sports as a man and naturally if they haven't had surgery, they are possibly bigger and stronger, so I see the cis-women's argument, but there is also the political argument, which is based on promoting fear. They sell lies but we can't answer back because they are often in power. They are selfish ignorant people but they know how to stir up a crowd, I wish them all to have premature demises, with love of course.



Kit's picture

The surgery itself does nothing to strengthen. Years of hormones certainly do. After a couple of years, the advantage is severely reduced if one exists. Closer to or during puberty? next to none.

Funnily enough, the argument comes mostly from Cis MEN telling cis women trans women are sneaking in to beat them in their own sports... and then cis women parroting it... its part of a grand game by the extreme right.

I like Turtles.

Boy toy

So is an attraction to men an necessary thing for Alex to be acknowledged female?

Not quite...

Kit's picture

A common observation perhaps of what is considered normal heterosexual attraction for a female sure, but in this case, more a pointer against one of the right's talking points that peope identify as female to sneak into womens lockerrooms to perv.

I like Turtles.

Thank you

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Kit, I’ve never been an athlete, unlike several on the site who debate this issue with both passion and authority. But you made me feel the issue in a way that arguments don’t, and I really appreciate that. As to why all of this is going on, I agree wholeheartedly with the analysis you lay out in your comment responses.

Warmest regards,


This one really sticks in my craw

gillian1968's picture

I have a TG friend who competed for several years in bike races. No gripes from competitors (AFAIK) Now suddenly she is banned forever except for a few unsanctioned events. :(

Ohio passed a ban that kept six (6) girls total from competing against 400,000 other school girls.

Another state banned a girl who had actually organized a hockey team from playing on her own team!

I’ve had online arguments about it. Their idea of dominating comes down to winning one race in an off year, or potentially finishing second by 50 kg in a weightlifting competition.

It’s being funded by right wing money groups as a way to intimidate and put trans girls in their place.

And the uterus point is spot on.

Gillian Cairns