In Trinidad and throughout Colorado, non-binary athletes are getting their own categories in sports competitions

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“Gravel loves everyone. It doesn’t matter how you identify yourself. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Gravel has always been popular and inclusive.

The 60-year-old started identifying as non-binary earlier this summer. They have competed in women’s categories in the past. But, says Buell, it never quite matches.

“Once I realized what non-binary was, I realized that was what I had been all my life, which is why I never felt like I was going back. in a category,” Buell said.

“There are a lot of non-binary people who are my friends and they don’t really feel like they belong at a sporting event or a race,” Buell said. “So the fact that it’s now being offered lets more non-binary people realize that there’s a place for them. They can be themselves, they can show up, they can ride, and whatever. everyone is going to treat them like anyone else who rides, no matter what category or gender they’re assigned to.

Tony Gorman/CPR News
Lee Buell from Des Moines, Iowa kicks off the Rad Dirt Fest in Trinidad. Buell was the only contestant in the non-binary division. October 8, 2022.

LifeTime first introduced a non-binary category in 2021

The Rad is one of 30 off-road cycling and triathlon events hosted by LifeTime, Inc. Known primarily for its 150 resorts in North America, it also hosts the Leadville Race Series in Colorado.

“At all of our events, we believe cycling is for everyone and we are constantly working to make our events and the sport of cycling at large more inclusive,” said Amanda Boyer, Chief Marketing Officer of LifeTime.

The non-binary category was first introduced at LifeTime events at Unbound Gravel 2021 in Kansas. Five non-binary athletes participated in the event. Abi Robins, a life coach from Austin, TX, was the category’s first winner.

It gained popularity after Rach McBride, a triathlete and professional cyclist, won the non-binary category at Big Sugar Gravel in Arkansas in 2021. They then won this year’s Unbound Gravel which featured 16 non-binary athletes.

“They’ve just done an amazing job alongside Abi Robins and helping us make the sport more inclusive,” Boyer said. “They’ve been such a great voice for those who aren’t binary. They show that everyone is welcome at these events. Anyone can participate in these events.

RAD-DIRT-FEST-TGTony Gorman/CPR News
Riders in Trinidad during the Rad Dirt Fest.

At a time of increased anti-trans legislation, organizers say non-binary categories have received support from athletes and communities

As politicians and school boards in Colorado debate access to athletics for trans athletes, Boyer said they received no backlash for including a non-binary category.

“We think everyone who attends our events is very aligned with us in trying to make the start line more welcoming and inviting for everyone.”

Boyer said his organization has seen positive responses from other event organizers, the communities they work in and the athletes themselves.

Tamira Jenlink is the Race Director of The Rad and Leadville Race Series and has been involved in racing events for 15 years. She says the category is still a new path in the community.

“I think right now we’re in this pretty amazing space of ‘OK, let’s open the door. Let’s see how we lack inclusiveness and how can we touch that in a deeper way? “Said Jenlink.

She says some people ask her how they regulate the category.

“We have to trust people to stand in the place that is accurate, aligned and consistent with who they are.

Jenlink hopes to resolve future issues through future conversations.

“We’re not necessarily going to take a magnifying glass for each individual and put them under a microscope,” Jenlink said. “It takes away our freedom of choice and our freedom to decide who we are. And when it comes to light, if something arises where there is a question, again we all deal with it together and also find out with the athlete and try to stay open.

Tony Gorman/CPR News
Nonbinary racer Lee Buell crosses the finish line in downtown Trinidad during Rad Dirt Fest. October 8, 2022.

Major governing bodies of other sports are also looking at non-binary categories

Life Time events are not sanctioned by the sport’s national governing body USA Cycling or the sport’s global governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI).

Chuck Hodge, head of races and events for USA Cycling, said independent organizers have offered a non-binary category at USA Cycling-sanctioned events at lower levels.

“Our experience has been that this is an open category, a non-binary category. And at this point, participation has been relatively limited to people from groups that we believe fit that description,” Hodge said.

USA Cycling is considering adding the category to its national championships. Hodge says the organization is working with the non-binary community to get advice on how to protect the integrity of the category.

“It has been a challenge, but we are working on it. We want to be inclusive,” Hodge said.

Other sports offer a non-binary category. In the running world, the Philadelphia Distance Run became the first road race in the country to establish a non-binary division in 2021. Since then, four of the six World Marathon Majors – New York, Chicago, Boston and London – have featured the category .

USA Triathlon added the category for the first time to its national championships this year.

“They can be themselves, they can show off, they can ride”

Within hours, Buell’s nervousness at the start of the race dissipated. The lifelong runner crossed the finish line and took first place on the podium in the city’s historic downtown.

“The crowd response and someone was ready to take a picture of me on my phone, I just felt like I was completely included,” they said.

And Buell hopes to share the podium with other athletes like them in the future.

“They can be themselves, they can show up, they can ride, and everyone is going to treat them like anyone else who rides, no matter what category or gender they’re assigned to.”

Tony Gorman/CPR News
Lee Buell celebrates his victory in the non-binary category on the podium at this year’s Rad Dirt Fest. October 8, 2022.

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