KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Protesters held a rally Sunday against the Union Cycliste International’s (UCI) policy that allows transgender women to compete in women’s cycling races.
The rally happened after the USA Cycling Women’s Pro Road National Championship in Knoxville on Sunday. People gathered outside the Thompson-Boling Arena to protest the participation of a transgender athlete who was competing in the race.
Riley Gaines, a former collegiate swimmer, said transgender women should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports.
“This issue is important to me because I directly faced it. I saw how it affected not just myself, I saw how it affected every girl on that pool deck, yet they were scared to speak out,” she said.
As a part of the Independent Women’s Forum, Gaines helped organize the rally.
“We deserve fairness, we deserve safety in our sports, and we deserve dignity. Their discriminatory policies that they’re implementing right now, they’re discriminating towards us on the basis of sex,” she said.
The Inga Thompson Foundation partnered with the Independent Women’s Forum on the event. Thompson is a former Olympic cyclist and said women do not want to compete if they do not think they have a chance.
“It’s become very simple, this is not fair to women athletes, so we’re asking them to review the policy because we have such overwhelming evidence that it is not fair to women,” she said.
USA Cycling CEO Brendan Quirk told WATE Friday that they comply with the rules set by UCI.
“The UCI rules have in place conditions by which transgender women can race, we will have one in the race on Sunday and she’s compliant with the rules. Everyone is playing by those rules, and we’re supporting that athlete because they have the right to be here, but it is a very controversial topic right now and I think everybody is aware of that,” Quirk said.
Knox Pride also released a statement on June 20 in response to the planned rally:
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and State Representative Jason Zachary also attended the rally.