Ian Boswell stormed across the line on Saturday to win the men’s Unbound Gravel 200 race in dramatic fashion but when he raised his arms in celebration the American also raised awareness for the transgender community with a sweatband showing the community’s flag on his right arm.
For Boswell, this is a personal matter, as well as a step to recognize the rights of transgender athletes and the community as a whole. The former WorldTour rider’s nephew is transgender and while Boswell also wore the armband a few weeks ago in the Rule of Three gravel race in Arkansas, this was the first time a wider media and audience had seen him show his support.
“It’s personal for me because my nephew is transgender but it really is awesome that people are asking questions and are aware,” Boswell told Cyclingnews the morning after his monumental win.
It wasn’t just the one sweatband that Boswell took to the race. He even made time to hand out a bunch more at the start to his fellow athletes.
“So when I was handing them out on the start line they asked me what the flag was, and that’s where this discussion is just starting in the cycling community. It’s still new to me, and my family but I think that it starts with something as simple as doing some research and speaking to people.”
When Boswell raced in Arkansas last month he made sure that he educated himself on the issues surrounding transgender athletes – especially after controversial laws surrounding trans athletes were passed in the state earlier this year.
“When I went and raced in Arkansas I tried to do my due diligence when it came to the LGBTQ community as it’s not one that I’m not a part of and I consider myself uninformed when it came to the legislation here in Arkansas and the attention that was put on the cyclo-cross world championships,” Boswell told Cyclingnews.
“It really raised my interest and rather than just have a knee-jerk reaction I spoke to people in the community and asked what they wanted in terms of how, a white male, could support them. I reached out to various people involved with the trans community and also the LGBTQ community to get a grasp on what the right thing was to do, in terms of attending these events, fully aware of the privilege that I have to race in states that are making the lives of some families and transgender people so difficult.
“I did a podcast in Arkansas with Molly Cameron, who I go way back with when it comes to racing in Oregon and she’s starting a foundation to really help the cycling community navigate into what’s going on. So I’ve been in regular contact with her and the message has really been that anything can help. Bringing awareness helps because this is an issue and battle that will go on for a long time but the journey starts with sharing the message.”
Boswell won the Unbound Gravel 200 in a two-up sprint against Laurens ten Dam but the American added that during the race he drew huge inspiration from the flag as he raced across 200 miles of dirt and gravel roads.
The win is obviously a huge moment in his racing career, and arguably his biggest ever win of any kind both on and off-road, but the 30-year-old admits that the pride in support the LGBTQ community and drawing attention to them is bigger than just the individual happiness that comes with victory.
“There were numerous times when I would look down in the race and see the flag,” he said. “I was in such a privileged position to be at the race and to ride, while so many people have so many bigger issues in their lives that they have to deal with. If I can bring any awareness or support then it honestly means more to me than winning any race. Having spent time with people in the trans community, they have such a challenge and it’s such a difficult experience to go through. I’m both happy and proud to shed a bit of light for that community.”
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