“Cycling and Gender Intersect in Meaningful Ways.”

Any bets on whether my local bike club will survive beyond this season? Emails lightly edited for brevity, all names anonymized except my own.

Sat, Mar 19, 2022
MEMBER A:
I was able to renew my membership with the link to the Website.  I noticed that the application requires a “gender” designation that only includes male or female.  This is now very out of date.  I identify as Female, but there are many who find this restrictive.  We need to replace the gender with more options for our gender-queer or LGBT or other gender options friends.  I can recommend a consultant for language, or we can reach out to the UP Center.

 

MEMBER B:
Better yet, get rid of the “Gender” check box!

 

MEMBER C:
What is the purpose of the gender check box? 

 

NINA PALEY:
There is no reason to have a gender checkbox.
If there’s a reason to know someone’s sex, there can be a checkbox for Male, Female, and Prefer Not To Say.

 

MEMBER D:
No boxes for me, I’m out!  And, please take me off the mailing/e-mail list.

 

MEMBER E:
I agree with A and B.
I will be happy to renew my membership after BIKECLUB has spoken with Uniting Pride of Champaign County about how to be non-binary in the membership form and how to be a LGBTQ+ Affirming organization.
If you do away with the gender box, that might solve a small part.
Thank you A!!
Sincerely,
MEMBER E
(she/her) but related to people who identify in many other non-cis, non-binary

 

MEMBER C:
I thought the BIKECLUB was about Community and riding bikes – NOT sexuality, the culture wars, virtue signaling, politics and all that other garbage that we can do everywhere else.
Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. 

 

MEMBER F:
I also agree that BIKECLUB should consult with the UP Center and include a checkbox for nonbinary folks and other gender identities.
A healthy cycling community is one that openly and positively recognizes diversity among cyclists.

 

MEMBER G:
Thank you MEMBER A! We want to be welcoming to all cyclists!

 

Club removes gender checkbox.

CLUB PRESIDENT:
The change has been made 

 

MEMBER J:
Eliminating the gender box is fine with me.

 

MEMBER C:
A healthy welcoming cycling community concentrates on cycling… 

 

NINA PALEY:
The BIKECLUB has always been welcoming of cyclists of all faiths. The club should not prioritize any one religion over others. Not everyone believes in God; likewise, not everyone believes in gender identity. It’s great that everyone has their own faith, including gender faith, but that’s not the Club’s business.
Believers pressuring the Club to seek direction and guidance from the UP Center is akin to pressuring it to seek guidance from a single church.
Checkboxes offering various gender identities are equivalent to checkboxes offering various Christian denominations. If you ask “what is your gender identity?” you might as well ask, “what church do you attend?” or “what is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ?”
Such questions are intrusive and inappropriate. Club members are free to discuss their religious beliefs with each other, but the club itself should take no position, so that all feel welcome. Including atheists.

 

MEMBER G:
There are those in this community who are nonbinary. I have nonbinary friends, for example, who are chromosomally neither “XX” nor “XY,” so to deny they exist and insist that all humans have to fit into one of two boxes is unscientific nonsense.
I want all of my friends to be able to join BIKECLUB, including those who are not just one of two gender identities. Some may make a counterargument allowing for a narrow range of exceptions, “Oh for those folks, with certifiable blah blah blah…,” but it’s ridiculous to think that our knowledge of human experience is definitive. We already know about some scientific exceptions, there may be more, and it doesn’t matter even if there aren’t more. It hurts no one, and it’s so easy to be accommodating. There is no need gaslight those whose identities differ; differing gender identities are not akin to differing religions.
If anyone wants to be part of a club that purposefully isn’t accepting of all of my friends, I would like to suggest they find a different club. I want all of my friends, with all of their gender identities, to feel like they belong in BIKECLUB. 

 

CLUB OFFICER:
Member G, What leads you suggest that BIKECLUB is not totally accepting?
Nina’s email advocates for total acceptance.

 

MEMBER H:
The rest of us would appreciate it if this discussion could be moved off the listserv.

 

MEMBER C:
Yes, please make it stop.
 

 

MEMBER G:
If you don’t think inclusion is an important consideration for our cycling community that’s fine – you have every option to decide not to continue reading. We have real people who ride bikes in our community, people for whom these are very important issues, people whom I have been actively trying to get more involved with riding bikes in our community. If we want to continue to remain relevant as a cycling community we either have to adapt or admit that you (for it won’t be we at that point) are in favor of adding barriers to increasing membership.
Nina’s response was a direct reply to OFFICER’s statement that he removed the question, and was directly gaslighting those with different gender experiences (alleging that she does not believe in gender identity and likening it to a religious belief). OFFICER’s removal of the question should have (if she doesn’t actually believe in it) been a relief, worthy of no response – instead she chose to insult our diverse community with a statement reducing their sometimes biological identities to religious beliefs.
I am in favor of our asking no question or our offering nonbinary options. The former requires no categorization at all (although comments about not asking about “gender faith” are of course awful and exactly how to alienate a large group of potential members), and the latter offers options beyond two states and perhaps gives a hint regarding pronouns.
If you don’t want to have this discussion here, on the members listserv, where do you propose that we do have it, given that it is a membership decision? 

*****

While this continues on the main listserv, Member G and Nina Paley get a private email from CLUB OFFICER:

Hello Member G,
Inclusion is important.  Everyone must feel welcome in BIKECLUB, and any  statement or action that hinders such is unacceptable.
The only “requirement” for BIKECLUB membership is an active interest in cycling.
What someone thinks inside their head  about other issues lacks relevance.
However, anyone associated with BIKECLUB who acts or remarks  disparagingly  towards an LGBTQ  person or the LGBTQ  community would be vehemently called out.  Similarly for race or religion.   Thus BIKECLUB’s culture is correct.
Do you doubt this? If so, why?
BIKECLUB should not be an advocacy group for any non-bicycling related issue.
What leads you suggest that BIKECLUB is not totally accepting?
The same online membership form has been used for at least seven years, the gender question having been copied from a once used  paper form.
I found  it amusing that the form’s gender  question survived undiscovered for so long.
The correct solution,  once Member A flagged the question and  only concurring comments followed,  was to change the form, which was done within several hours of A’s observation.    Several persons have commented on the listserv and to me privately that this was the correct, necessary and only needed action
You misinterpreted Nina’s post.   She supported removal of the gender question.   Nothing in her email suggests a disbelief in gender identity.   Her analogy to religion indicates that religion, like sexual orientation lacks relevance to BIKECLUB membership and activities.
I speculate that the BIKECLUB membership reflects the diversity of sexual orientation in our community, and am certain BIKECLUB does nothing to make LGBTQ individuals doubt  being  welcome.
However,   although the membership from  correctly does  not ask about race,   BIKECLUB has  almost no black members.  Is BIKECLUB doing something to make black people feel unwelcome?   (I am certain BIKECLUB is not)
…..
Several people have stated on the listserv or emailed to me their displeasure of  discussions beyond a) on the listserv.   Thus, you and Nina are the only recipients of this note.
…..

 

MEMBER G:
Thank you for your email, but I have received numerous messages on a variety of platforms suggesting that my response to Nina’s message which compared the UP Center to a church was needed and essential. Nina has a history of belittling those with diverse gender expressions by denying they exist, refusing to do the simple thing of using proper pronouns, and then posting about them on social media comparing their expressions to religions (see attached example – I didn’t have to go back even a month to find one).
Those in our community who are nonbinary or have friends who are nonbinary do not have stand for it and have every right to respond publicly to her public denigrations. I’m sure you thought her message was inclusive and polite, but given the history such as that attached, i can assure you that it was not.
Attachments:

++++

Returning to main list, after others explicitly asked to stop talking about this:

MEMBER I:
I think it’s been determined that there was no reason to have a gender question.
I believe inclusion is important. We aren’t exactly representative in terms of race or age either. Maybe those who are willing to work on this could meet as a small committee and come up with ideas. It can be challenging to get to the root of why people don’t feel comfortable joining and requires some effort for outreach. At the very least, taking a look at possible inadvertent barriers would be great.

 

MEMBER J:
I’m working with a graduate student group doing a similar research survey project right now, exploring barriers to recycling. If the club is serious about this inquiry, there may be opportunity there to glean appropriate methods and expertise.

 

MEMBER F:
I want to suggest that removing all gender checkboxes from the BIKECLUB membership form is a problematic choice. BIKECLUB clearly recognizes that gender matters and that space in the cycling community needs to be created around gender. I mean, it hosts a weekly women’s ride. I’m guessing that the club plans to continue hosting that ride in 2022 too, and thus that the club will continue to recognize that cycling and gender intersect in meaningful ways.
For the club to suddenly start pretending that gender doesn’t matter in response to A’s legitimate request to update the BIKECLUB form and add a checkbox for nonbinary people raises red flags about the organization’s committment to diversity and inclusion. Removing all gender checkboxes is not a step toward welcoming nonbinary and trans people into BIKECLUB. It just maintains the status quo (inhospitality to trans and nonbinary folks and cisgender privilege).
I is right that BIKECLUB should discuss how to encourage participation from the full spectrum of our community. That said, for the specific decision under discussion here, I still support talking to the Up Center sooner rather than later. It’s likely that nonbinary cyclists already know that they aren’t welcome in BIKECLUB — that many of its members bristle about discussions of giving them space even on its membership form — and erasing all acknowledgement of gender risks reinforcing that impression.

 

CLUB PRESIDENT:
I think that’s a good idea.
Removing the gender box — as I said already   – was just a first step.
I’ll be talking to folks here more active than me in Pride… but I’m at work right now and it’s beckoning.  Thank you all — and of course we can discuss this at board meetings, which everybody has always been welcome to participate in. 

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Author: Nina Paley

Animator. Director. Artist. Scapegoat.

5 thoughts on ““Cycling and Gender Intersect in Meaningful Ways.””

  1. “space in the cycling community needs to be created around gender”

    WHY

  2. My most favorest line:
    “ I thought the BIKECLUB was about Community and riding bikes … not all that other garbage that we can do everywhere else.”
    Yes I actually begin my day by reading Nina Paley’s blog. And you?

  3. I work for a large cycling advocacy and we are also struggling with this question. For us though, we don’t have a choice to remove that box as we track route data and use that analysis in our advocacy and lobying. We have some very surprising results, mainly that women are more likely to ride on large streets and less likely to ride through parks, very weird, we hypothesize that this is related to fear of sexual assult but we don’t actualy know why yet. In anycase, we have to continue asking the big bad question.

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