Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Day I Died

Michelle DumaresqThis is a guest post from my Canadian homegirl Michelle Dumaresq that she wrote in response to the Ryders Eyewear ad controversy.

Dear Ryders Eyeware people,

Hi there, my name is Michelle Dumaresq, I'm a former professional downhill mountain biker and a transgendered woman.  I really hope that whomever reads this will pass it on to the people that make decisions at Ryders.

Firstly I'd like to say thank you for the second apology (the first one really sucked) and retraction of the offensive "I'm a man" ad. I don't usually get involved in these types of issues within the trans community but given that I grew up riding the north shore mountains and have been wearing Ryder products for so many years, I felt like I finally had to say something.

I'm not sure if you remember a few years ago when I was racing on the world cup circuit but my involvement caused a bit of a stir in the cycling world. I won three Canadian women's DH championships and represented Canada at the world championships four times. I feel like I broke ground for trans women everywhere.   

I thought I'd share a story that I have rarely ever told anyone. It's called 'The Day That I Died.'  I'll try to keep it as brief as possible.

The location was Whistler for the 2005 Canadian DH champs. The three favorites were Claire Bushar, Danika Schroter and me. I was fit, strong and riding at the top of my game. I knew that I had a real chance at winning my third Canadian championship. My parents had never seen me race before so they came, my life partner and her kids were there as well. The energy in Whistler was over the top. Awesome. The race went as expected (it was really close) but I came out on top and I had my third title. How I died came an hour later.

When I started racing I faced a backlash from many of the women that I was racing against. I guess this was not unexpected but I loved what racing brought out of me so I really wanted to continue. I tried really hard to explain to the women that I was racing against that I didn't have an unfair advantage but not many embraced that explanation. I continued to race but as you can imagine I faced a fair amount of discrimination and intolerance. It wasn't until I started racing at the international level that a new threat became evident. I had attracted a lot of attention in the media after I made the national team, all around the world. I quickly found myself in Europe, alone, traveling all over racing my bike. I was never part of a factory team so I funded my own racing but I never realized how vulnerable I would be. People in Europe had seen me on TV and when they would pass me on the street they would point or yell something in a language I couldn't understand. I kept racing. I had men follow me to the hotel I was staying at. I had my bikes tampered with. I kept racing.

One night in Austria I had a dream before the last world cup race of the year. In my dream I beat Sabrina, Tracey and Marla. I finally won a world cup race. In my dream I got up on stage, climbed to the top spot on the podium, I heard the Canadian national anthem playing and I got my rainbow stripes. At that moment a man broke through security, climbed on the stage, jumped on the podium and cut my throat with a knife in front of thousands of people. I died that day in my dream. It seemed so real. It seemed like a possibility. But I kept racing.

Fast forward to Whistler. I had won my third champ and I was on top of the world. The award ceremony was held right after the race with about a thousand people hanging around to watch including my parents, my partner and her young kids. I should say that one of my least favorite places in the world is a podium. I like to ride my bike but standing up in front of everyone on a podium is a foreign world to me. I kinda zone out on the podium and try to not fall off or trip. So I jumped up on the top step and accepted my medal. To my left was Claire and my right was Danika. I'm not sure where I was zoning out to but I didn't notice a man jumping up on stage.

When I noticed him he was already running over to us. I'm sure you can imagine what went through my mind at that moment. He turned out to be Danika's boyfriend and he ran over and put a white t-shirt on her that said "100% pure woman" a play on the title of the documentary (100% Woman) that I was involved in about my racing life. I of course couldn't see what he was doing. I turned away from him and realized that my dream was about to come true. I truly thought my throat was about to be cut on the podium and in front of my parents. I had seen it so clearly in my dream. He was escorted off, I put on the new national champ jersey and went to get pee tested. I was 35, fast and living a life that I never thought possible. . . I never raced again. He destroyed me that day.

I'm writing this partly for you to try and shed some light into the shit storm that your ad created and also for me. I forgave him for what he did but I can never forget. Your ad represents my fear that I live with everyday. That one day I'll be walking down the street and a man will recognise me from the media. He will secretly harbour a hatred to trans women for whatever reason, and I will die. If I crash my DH bike at a million miles per hour and I die, I'm ok with that. If I get killed by some person who decides that I should die because I made a decision to live my life to its fullest is bullshit.

Violence happens against trans women every day. I hope that you realise the power of influence that you hold via the media. You can make the world a better place and I'd be happy to help.

I really hope that the next Ryders Eyeware ad that I see in a cycling magazine show's the diverse population in the cycling world. Trans women and men ride bikes too. We used to buy your product with the faith that Ryders was part of our world. You broke that faith, fix it.

Michelle Dumaresq

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