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Transgender cyclist is first female finisher at Arizona race

Jillian Bearden is also working with the International Olympic Committee as it refines rules on transgender athletes

A transgender woman has been hailed a history-maker after becoming the first-placed female finisher in a major cycling event, the first time it is believed to have happened. The rider, Jillian Bearden, is also among athletes being tested by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as it continues to formulate rules regarding transgender athletes.

The 36-year-old completed the 106-mile El Tour de Tucson in a time of 4 hours 36 minutes and 7 seconds, reports

Bearden, riding for the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, was the 40th individual finisher in an event that more than 2,000 cyclists completed.

 Reflecting on her win, Bearden, who was riding for the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, said, “It’s absolutely huge.”

“We’re at a moment of time – especially now – where not only do we have to come out but we have to be positive.

“We have to come together in solidarity and move this country in a direction that is accepting of all,” she added.

Last month, Bearden revealed that she had been asked by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take part in a study of transgender athletes.

Writing on Facebook, she said: “This study will build on the transgender policy that the IOC published earlier this year, and its intent is [to] be more granular and help other governing bodies in their decision making to allow trans women to compete in all sports across the world.

“This will also trickle down and help trans women at a local level, including those participating in high schools sports!”

As part of the study, the Colorado Springs native underwent testing with Chris Carmichael’s Carmichael Training Systems, which had previously assessed her before she began transition.

“Today's test will be presented to the IOC in Spain next month [November] with the goal to provide data for a new transgender policy set that is to be published by the end of the year,” she wrote.

Bearsden – given the first name Jonathan at birth – is an active campaigner for gender inclusion within cycling and has founded the world’s first transgender cycling team, the Transnational Women’s Cycling Team, which will make its debut next year.

She revealed in an interview earlier this year that she had come close to committing suicide in 2014, after which she confided in her mother that she had felt female from at least the age of six.

With the support of her wife, Sarah, with whom she has two children, she began the transition process, starting with hormone therapy.

In sporting terms, she says that has resulted in her losing muscle mass and she also tires more quickly than she did when competing as a male before starting the treatment.

The IOC’s latest revision of its policy on transgender athletes, published last January, recommends that governing bodies allow transgender athletes to compete without requiring that they undergo sex reassignment surgery – still a stipulation imposed by some, such as USA Track & Field.

USA Cycling, by contrast, permits male-to-female transgender athletes to compete provided their hormone levels fall within specified thresholds.

Last year, the governing body told Portland, Oregon-based cyclo-cross rider Molly Cameron, a transgender athlete born male but who identifies herself as a woman, that she could no longer compete in men’s races because the gender stated on her driving licence is ‘female.’

> Transgender cyclist told she can no longer compete in men's events - despite decades of racing

Other transgender cyclists include Dutch professional rider Natalie van Gogh, who has won women’s races including last year’s Trofee Martyn Wynaants. Unlike Bearden, van Gogh has had sex reassignment surgery.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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