20 November 2015

Michelle Dumaresq: 100% Pure Woman Champ

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.  

This day was first observed in 1999, one year after Rita Hester was murdered in her Allston, Massachusetts apartment.  She was killed just two days before she would have turned 35 years old.

Her death came just a few weeks after Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die on a cold night in the Wyoming high desert.  Their deaths helped to bring about the hate-crime laws now on the books in the US as well as many state and local statutes.  Moreover, Hester's killing--while not as widely publicized as Shepard's--galvanized transgender activists all over the world.

Because I am--at least to my knowledge--the only transsexual woman with a bike blog, I am going to use this post to honor one of the greatest transgender athletes of our era.

Michelle Dumaresq was born in 1970.  In 2001, she entered and won her first competitive mountain biking event--the Bear Mountain Race in British Columbia, Canada.  After she won two more races, her racing license was suspended in response to complaints from other female riders.  The cycling associations of British Columbia and Canada, after meeting privately with race organizers, tried to pressure her into quitting.  Of course, she wouldn't, and after a meeting with UCI officials, it was decided that she could continue to compete as a female.

Other female riders felt she had an unfair advantage.  Their resentment was, not surprisingly, based on a common misunderstanding.  Dumaresq had her gender reassignment surgery in 1996, five years before her first victory, and had been taking female hormones--and a male hormone blocker--for several years before that.  By the time she started racing, she no longer had any testosterone in her body (Biological females have traces of it.) and she had lost most of the muscle mass she had as a man.

I know exactly where she's been, as I also had the surgery after six years of taking hormones and a testosterone blocker.  A few months into my regimen, I started to notice a loss of overall strength, and I noticed some more after my surgery.  Trust me, Ms. Dumaresq, as talented and dedicated as she is, had no physiological advantage over her female competitors.

I remind myself of that whenever another female rider (usually, one younger than I am) passes me during my ride to work!

But I digress.  Michelle Dumaresq had the sort of career that would do any cyclist--male or female, trans or cisgender, or gay--proud.  She won the Canadian National Championships four times and represented her country in the World Championships.  That, of course, made the haters turn up the heat.  When she won the 2006 Canadian National Championships, the boyfriend of second-place finisher Danika Schroeter jumped onto the podium and helped her put on a T-shirt that read "100% Pure Woman Champ."

Ms. Dumaresq would have looked just fine in it.

15 November 2015

I posted the following on my other blog (Midlife Cycling) yesterday:


Isabelle. Je suis Justine.  Tu vas bien?

Oui.  Comment ca-va?

Bien.  J'ai vous vous reveillez?



No problem.  (She likes to use that phrase.) 

J'ai entendu les nouvelles de Paris.

Yes, it is terrible.  But we were not there.

Je suis tres hereuse pour ca.

Would you like to talk to Jay?
Il dort?

Oui, mais se reveillera.

I didn't want her to wake him.  At least I knew he was at home, in his bed.  But she brought him to the phone. 

Desole de te reveiller.

Don't worry.  Mais, besoin de redormir. 

That's OK.  J'ai voule etre sur que vous etes OK.

He thanked me for calling.  I assured him that all I wanted was to know that he and Isabelle were not casualties of the bombings, the shootings, that rocked Paris and its environs yesterday.  I knew that, chances were, they weren't there when those terrible events went down, but I just wanted to be sure.

Then I called Michele.  No answer.  Asleep, I hoped.  I left a message.  Just before I started writing this post, I found an e-mail from her.  All right.  I can breathe a little easier.  Can they?

None of us had gone to the Bataclan together.  But we'd walked those streets, ate in restaurants and sipped espressos in the cafes near it.  When I heard that death struck at Le Carillon, I stopped cold. 

It's just a block away from the Quai des Jemmapes, on the eastern bank of the Canal St. Martin.  Back in August, after a lovely morning ride, I enjoyed a picnic lunch of fresh foods and Badoit water I bought along the way.  As the sun softened the green tint of the canal and leaves that flickered in the breeze, it was hard to imagine anything terrible, let alone the blaze of guns or an explosion.

After my canal-side reverie, I retreated to Le Carillon for a cappuccino to cap off my lunch.  By that time, most locals had finished their lunch and were back at work or passing the rest of the day along the old, narrow streets.  I went to Le Carillon because it was the nearest café, but it was a place I would have chosen otherwise: It seemed like a real old cozy neighborhood watering hole Parisians themselves would habituate, not some place trying to look the part for hipsters who wanted an "authentic" experience. 

I sat at a wooden table on the sidewalk.  So did a few other people.  It's hard to imagine that sidewalk with bodies sprawled over it--even more difficult than it was, the first time I saw the Place de la Concorde, to visualize the blood of French monarchy and nobility spilled all over it.  But certainly not as difficult as it is for those who witnessed the darkness that descended upon the City of Light.

28 August 2015

Mama Mechanic

This afternoon I took a ride out to the Rockaways on Tosca, my Mercian fixie.

The weather was lovely, as it was yesterday:  warm, but not overly so, with high puffy clouds floating across expanses of blue sky.  And, as luck would have it, I rode into the wind on my way out to Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway.  That meant, of course, that on my way home, I could pedal about 20 RPM faster without trying.

Anyway, I was coasting through an area of Gateway National Recreation area frequented by bird-watchers and wildlife photographers--in plain view of JFK International Airport!  My external reverie seemed to embody the one that was playing out within me at that moment:  I am still in the afterglow of my trip to Paris and of the wonderful late-day ride to Connecticut I enjoyed yesterday.  I have been doing some writing away from this blog (I don't want to give too much away!) and I'm feeling optimistic about the semester that's about to begin. Now all I need is to hit the Lotto jackpot and meet the love of my life.  Hmm...I'm not so sure about the latter.  Being single isn't so bad after you've been in an abusive relationship or two.

Wouldn't you know...a cute young guy approaches me from behind.  "Sir!"  "Sir!"  He sounded distressed, so I turned to look at him.  (His distress was the only reason I looked at him, I swear! ;-))  "Do you...Oh, I'm sorry, Ma'am."

"Don't worry."

"You don't see a lot of women riding here.  And, from behind, you were pedaling like a dude."

I said nothing. (I didn't want to give too much away!)

"Do you have an allen key?"

"Yes, I do."

Just then I saw the reason why he asked:  His handlebar slipped and rolled inside the stem.

"We can't let you ride like that," I said.

"I swapped this handlebar today.  I guess I didn't tighten it enough."

"Well, let's hope it's the right diameter."

"I thought they were all the same size."

I shook my head and, from the corner of my eye, saw the source of the problem.  He had a stem with a faceplate that bolt in the four corners. He'd tightened the top two bolts much more than the lower ones.  So, in addition to the usual hazards of a loose handlebar, he ran the risk of shearing off the faceplate and, possibly, taking an even nastier spill than he might have had he only leaned on loose bars. 

Before I tightened the stem bolts, I asked him to move the bar to a position he likes.  Good thing: I noticed that his grips slipped on the bars.

He said he'd used water to slide the rubber grips onto the bars.   I grabbed the edge of the right grip and rolled it up to the end of the bar.  Then I unrolled it, and the grip--an Oury--stayed as if it had been epoxied to the bar.  I did the same for his left grip.

Then I told him to grab the grip and try to roll it, and to try to move the bar in the stem.  Everything was as firmly in place as the pyramids.

"Lady, I don't know how to thank you enough."

"Just be careful," I said in my most maternal tone.  Really, he's a nice kid--he's been working as a lifeguard--and want him to live and ride long.