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Transgender world champion Rachel McKinnon defends title in Manchester

Canadian masters champion defends her 200 m title and her place in sport asserting it's her human right to compete

After taking a breakthrough win at the 2018 Master’s World Championships last year, transgender master Canadian cyclist Rachel McKinnon set a new world record and defended her title this past weekend in Manchester, UK. Last year, the 37-year-old became the first transgender woman to win a female world title on the track in Los Angeles.

Her defence in Manchester went perfectly. In qualifying for the 35-39 age category 200-meter sprint, McKinnon set a new world record establishing herself as the one to beat a year after taking the title. In the finals, she took the win and doned the rainbow jersey for another year.

The win will once again raise debate over whether trans athletes should be allowed to compete in the women’s category. McKinnon has been a fierce defender of a trans women’s right to compete in sport.

“We cannot have a woman legally recognized as a trans woman in society, and not be recognized that way in sports,” McKinnon explained last year. “Focusing on performance advantage is largely irrelevant because this is a rights issue. We shouldn’t be worried about trans people taking over the Olympics. We should be worried about their fairness and human rights instead.”

Others see it very differently. Speaking to Sky News, former cycling champion and a manager of an all women’s track team, Victoria Hood said, “It is not complicated. The science is there and it says that it is unfair. The male body, which has been through male puberty, still retains its advantage; that doesn’t go away. I have sympathy with them. They have the right to do sport but not a right to go into any category they want.”

McKinnon, a philosophy professor at the College of Charleston born in Victoria, said Hood has an irrational fear of trans women and that denying them a place in sport is a denial of their human rights.

“By preventing trans women from competing or requiring them to take medication, you’re denying their human rights,” McKinnon told Sky News defending her place in the women’s category at the world championships. “All my medical records say female. My doctor treats me as a female person, my racing license says female, but people who oppose my existence still want to think of me as male…So, if we want to say, that I believe you’re a woman for all of society, except for this massive central part that is sport, then that’s not fair.”

Last year, Canadian Cycling Magazine spoke to McKinnon about the turbulent days following her win last year.