From The Archives
Volume 2, Issue 4 Winter 2018/2019
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LGBMXTQUCIA: Chelsea Wolfe and the UCI
Interview and intro by Jack Bee
photograph by Matt Coplon
Chelsea Wolfe has spent the last few years steadily climbing upwards through a scene that could hardly be described as femme let alone queer, all while combating the howling shitstorm of bigotry and prejudice that is the mere daily existence of trans people. A relentless rider with incredible flow and a glowing, posi attitiude to match, she's been out to shatter that invisible glass ceiling cis folks never encounter for quite some time now. In late 2018, she made BMX history by obtaining a UCI license. While she is not the first trans woman to get a UCI license, she is the first to use one to compete in BMX freestyle. If you haven't yet learned of this grade-A certified badass babe, shame on you, and here's your blessed chance. You can thank us later.
Hi Chelsea! So you're a former BMX racer from Florida. Wanna tell me a little about yourself and why you switched over to freestyle?
Yeah I started racing 19 years ago, stuck with it for a long time but eventually stopped renewing my license. I got into freestyle 10 years ago; there were about 5 years of overlap where I had a lot of fun doing both but as I got more into freestyle, racing just lost its appeal. Racing is roughly the same thing over and over, with tracks now less fun than they were before whereas freestyle is full of never ending new and exciting things. I can't see myself ever running out of new tricks to learn, new riding styles to try, new places to ride.
Obviously you've received negative backlash but let's just let the haters hate. What sorts of positive response have you received?
Honestly almost all of the response has been positive. There have been a handful of trolls and that's about it and only one of them even had the guts to talk to me directly. And along with that was a whole slew of people defending me, many who I don't even know who just stepped up to do what they know is right. But yeah for the most part it's not even a thing for people, I'm just a BMX rider like anyone else. Then for the people who I inspire it means the world to me to know that I'm being the person I needed when I was younger. I've been told that seeing me riding motivated someone to get back into riding after they quit when they transitioned, or that seeing me ride made them want to try BMX for the first time because finding a community and culture so accepting to us is difficult. That kind of feedback is what gets me through the tough days where it seems like a never ending battle.
What has your experience as a trans woman in BMX contests been like so far?
In a word, positive. When I first started competing in 2014 I was so scared. It was at an FLBMX contest the first time they held a women's class. But from that day on I've felt so welcomed at events. I was pretty nervous competing at my first UCI event and I'll probably feel the same at my first world cup but I don't think that's out of the ordinary. Competitors are friendly, other people there either don't care or mention that they're stoked I'm there. At the FLBMX series now I'm even a judge so it certainly doesn't seem to be an issue with anyone of significance.
Do you feel like trans visibility exists in bmx? Have you had the opportunity to ride with other trans people?
At the moment no but we're getting it there. Prior to me there was no trans visibility even if you went looking for it (which I did) whereas now there's enough of us that I would say it's a scene. Where we're at now feels a lot like where women's BMX was at 10 years ago. Few and far between but we're out there. I've ridden with other trans people a handful of times now, most notably at women's weekend in the woods last year where there were I think 5 of us that are open about it? Which was way cool to realize how far we've come, from me being so scared to go to my first women's weekend to now not being the only one. There's even a young trans BMXer in my area now who I see at sessions all the time. Seeing their confidence and happiness at that age makes me so happy because it shows how much the world is changing for the better. When I was their age I was this shell of a kid who knew that I wasn't experiencing life fully but couldn't really place why because the existence of trans people and what we actually are wasn't widely known back then. It's crazy to think that we're a part of changing the world but that is what we're doing. ︎