Dr Rachel McKinnon says she has seen ‘a huge uptick in hate mail’ since she was the subject of a ‘Twitter tantrum’ by Donald Trump Junior in October. McKinnon became the first transgender athlete to win a world title in any sport when she took the world title in the 35-44 women’s sprint category in 2018. Retention of her title led Trump to claim that the inclusion of trans athletes would “destroy women’s sports.”
“This BS will destroy women’s sports and everything so many amazing female athletes have worked their entire lives to achieve,” he tweeted in response to a story about McKinnon’s win. “I couldn’t care less how you identify, but this isn’t right.”
Trump later added: “You can never be woke enough! Sorry to all female athletes who spent their lives mastering their games.”
Writing in the New York Times, McKinnon says she has seen a huge increase in the volume of hate mail she has received since those comments.
“I have four people who monitor my Instagram to delete hateful messages; they’ve been overwhelmed by the volume. Twitter is far worse. I’ve received death threats, but I try not to dwell on them.”
McKinnon has previously countered suggestions of unfairness by suggesting that trans inclusion is fairness. “If you want to say, ‘Well, I believe you’re a woman for all of society except this massive central part that is sport,’ then that’s not fair,” she reasons.
In the New York Times article, she tries to set her achievements in context.
She points out that while she now holds the world record in the 200-metre time trial for the 35-39 age category, her record is still slower than those in the 40-44 and 45-49 age categories.
She adds that her masters world record is 13 percent slower than the elite women’s 200-meter record set by Canadian Kelsey Mitchell.
“My current elite world ranking in the Sprint event is 105th. Ms Mitchell is on her way to represent Canada at the 2020 Olympics. I am not.”
Addressing suggestions that she benefits from having – or having had – higher levels of testosterone, she says that her body has been unable to produce testosterone since she transitioned seven years ago.
“My testosterone levels are so low that they’re undetectable, and have been that way since 2012.
“Some people think it’s unfair because they claim my body developed differently than many other women’s bodies. But women come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, and some elite cyclists are even bigger than me. I’m six feet tall and weigh 190 pounds. Dutch track cyclist Elis Ligtlee, an Olympic gold medalist, is taller and heavier than me at 6 foot 1 inches and 198 pounds. She towered over Kristina Vogel, who at 5 foot 3 inches and 136 pounds, was the more accomplished track sprinter.
“Bigger isn’t necessarily faster. While they were still competing, these women were clearly much faster than me. I wouldn’t have stood a chance.”
Speaking last month, Philippa York – who came fourth in the 1984 Tour de France as Robert Millar before transitioning after retirement – said that the idea that transgender people are going to take over women’s sport was “absolutely ridiculous.”
She highlighted what she believes are far more significant advantages that are often overlooked, such as the systems some countries have in place to help their athletes.
“If you're a full time athlete with medical backup, a support system and you're from a country that can afford to sponsor your training, then you have far more of a chance to succeed. No-one talks about that, and that's way more advantageous than your gender.”
McKinnon echoes this point in her article, saying: “Some athletes have access to the best coaches, the best equipment, the best facilities, and others don’t. Some athletes are better at tactics, or better at pushing through pain and discomfort. We already permit huge competitive advantages and call them fair, even within women’s sport.
“If you think I have an unfair competitive advantage, consider this: I lose most of my races. I won five out of 22 events in 2019; none of those I won were against strong international fields. The woman who took second place to me in the masters world championship sprint event, Dawn Orwick, beat me just days earlier in the 500-meter time trial.
“In the 12 times I’ve raced against Jennifer Wagner, who finished third to my first place in the sprint event in 2018, she beat me in seven. Wagner has beaten me more times than I’ve beaten her, head-to-head. How can I have an unfair advantage over her if she beats me most of the time? And why should my right to compete be contingent on not winning?”