Trans Cyclist Entered Women’s Race to ‘Stir Controversy,’ Prove Men Have an Advantage

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Digital Vision/Getty Images

A man who entered and won a South Korean cycling race as a “transgender woman” said he did so to purposefully “stir controversy” and prove that men have a competitive advantage over women in sports.

Cyclist Na Hwa-rin said he was “not proud” of his win and that he “felt sorry” for the women he beat, but he did it for a greater point.

The 37-year-old cyclist told The Korea Times that he anticipated all the controversy and transphobic remarks that would come his way once he became the first transgender athlete in Korean cycling.

Na didn’t simply pull a stunt, though. He underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2022 and is officially recognized as a woman under South Korean law. Further, he was able to enter the race as a woman because neither the Gangwon State Sports Council nor the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee have any specific rules on trans athletes.

The athlete had also been a competitive cyclist before his transition surgery, so he has experience as a racer. But despite all that, Na is not celebrating his big win.

“I am not honored. I am not proud of myself at all. I believe other transgender athletes would feel the same way. They may not want to admit it, but they’re being selfish. There is no honor as an athlete in that,” Na said.

“I have no unresolved feelings over winning because that’s no longer what I want. My goal was to stir controversy and get my story heard by competing,” Na said.

The Times added, “When she crossed the finish line in the women’s race, she was ‘more relieved than triumphant’ because she felt she finally made her point about male physical superiority and gender inclusion in sports. At the same time, Na felt sorry for the female cyclists who competed against her and offered them energy drinks as a kind of apology during the race.”

To prove that he has the courage of his convictions, Na is also refusing to accept any qualification for the National Sports Festival. This one win was enough to make the point, he said.

“I don’t want to make an issue to the point where I harm other people,” Na told the paper.

Na says that sports organizations need to add a transgender category to prevent men claiming to be women from competing as women.

“It could be like how we have many weight divisions in some sports,” Na said. “Under the current binary system, women athletes will be discouraged, and their hard work might not be recognized due to the participation of transgender athletes. At the same time, trans woman athletes, no matter how hard they worked, will never be truly honored for their wins. Honor is the goal that all athletes aspire to attain, but this is a situation where nobody will be honored. I think that shouldn’t happen.”

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