Went for a walk yesterday afternoon, ended up at Tempelhofer Feld, ’cos of course, and got my insides blown clean by the incoming storm and listening to Kemistry & Storm’s 1996 Brighton Metalheadz set. Got soaked on the way home and bought a loaf of caraway bread which is the closest thing to Glick’s bagels in Balaclava I’ve had in a long time. Love me some proper weather.
’Cos I’m mad slow these days when it comes to blogging, this is from September 29th at the south-west end of the perimeter road where it joins onto the square-paved area I think was used for parking planes. I needed a sitdown (thx chronic fatigue or whatever’s been non-consensually buttfucking me for the last two months) and “Ooo! isn’t the sky big as!” Photo obviously doesn’t do it justice but, too big to see all at once, and, so big I feel like I’m falling up into it, is the kind of massiveness which is usually reserved for deserts and the outback.
And separately, yeah, I do have other things I would blog about besides endless photos out at Tempelhofer Feld, but I’m tired and quite a bit can’t be fucked.
It’s autumn and that means cyclocross! Bashing around Belgian farmland in the rain and mud and sand and snow in generally shite, “Why the fuck would you?” conditions.
Paris fucking Roubaix!
In autumn! Thanks, incredibly poorly managed and politicised pandemic response and incredibly selfish wankers.
Outside of cyclocross, it’s probably my favourite race? First equal with Strade Bianche Rosa, especially when it’s raining. Anything cobbles and / or hosed with mud is my safe space.
And this year, for the first time in the 118 races since 1896 when it was first run, there’s a women’s race! Fucking progress right there, eh! And it was raining buckets and blowing a gale and those 29km of cobbles were muddy and grotty and slippery and terrifying and the riders hurled themselves over them, crashed, got up, did it again. Best 3 hours on a Saturday arvo in a looooong time.
Yaaah, but. The ASO, who organised this, have had an equally long time to pull their white dude fingers out and make it happen. They didn’t. They run the biggest stage races in the world including Tour de France, Vuelta a España, as well as a heap of those hardcore one day races like Liège–Bastogne–Liège and La Flèche Wallonne. Their equivalent women’s races to those big tours are 1-day patronising yawns.
Could they come up with the same 91,000€ prize money for women’s winner as the men’s? How about 7,005€? What about smashing the 5-star cobbles of Trouée d’Arenberg? The women started just next door in Denian. Also nah. Superficially the ASO had valid reasons. Normally the men have done 100km of riding and a bunch of cobbles before barrelling at 60+km/h into the trench, which ‘sorts the peloton out a bit’. Obviously modifying the women’s course so they had some cobbles first was beyond everyone’s capabilities.
And then there’s the M-word. Paris-Roubaix is a Monument. That means it’s one of the five, 250+km 1-day races. It’s also one of the four Cobbled Classics, which are similar lengths plus, obviously, cobbles. The women’s Paris-Roubaix was a quick 115.6km, done and dusted (or jet-washed if you’re Sarah Roy) in 3 hours. None of that 6 hours in the saddle stuff for whatever the ASO thinks women riders are. It’s like back when teh menz thought that if women ran a marathon their uteruses would fall out or something.
And finally (not really but I wanna watch Legends of Tomorrow), there’s the live coverage. Or absence of the first 60km or so. Which is pretty typical. The EWS Enduro World Series this year reliably missed getting the women’s runs because “something something crew hadn’t set up something,” and that’s the top-level competition. There are more men’s races and more actual racing time shown with live or delayed coverage. The stories men tell about men racing are nuanced and full of drama and emotion and narrative arcs and character growth and are accompanied with equally dramatic images and video. Men simply care more about other men. And yes, those men, they are white.
Yah anyway, here’s Sarah Roy shredding on those cobbles.
From my Sunday wander, where I also saw the DVOR, a Kestrel or Hawk or something, which I’ve seen and heard a couple of times before, and this time followed me to my usual southern hangout area. Also might have found a spot where they did a murder, all feathers and bones in a little pile. And found the sheep! In the bird sanctuary. The birds are well stealthy hiding in the grass.
Still managing to find parts of Tempelhofer Feld I haven’t wandered through. Right in the centre, the DVOR air-traffic control radio navigation station, looking well sci-fi.
Speaking of walking instead of riding, I walked my bike (on its autumn cyclocross tires and wheels with the very loud freehub) to Tempelhofer Feld yesterday, with snacks (flatbread with yoghourt harissa, duqqa, and parsley) and a book for some quality putting in the steps and lazing under a tree time.
I went to where Aisha and Arwa hang out (that’s a novel reference), south side under the trees and lucky me found a tree I could lean against. This photo’s from earlier in the week when I also went there and walked a blister into my left heel, but it captures the autumn mood when the sun’s lower and it’s the last days of heat and blue sky.
Been thinking about it for a long while now. My biggest fear is I’ll get back into swimming, and start riding my bike without socks because triathlon.
I haven’t had running as a part of my training routine since Adelaide, and even that was mostly scuffing around the South Terrace parklands. But I think I enjoyed it? Anyway, not really dancing anymore and certainly not going to morning ballet class. The last time I went to one of those was mid-2018, and the last time I was in a dance studio was early-2019. So my bones are not getting the workout they need, and as much as I have superhero bones (and apparently I did not blog about my epic bone density), cycling is guaranteed to not do the job.
So, running? And off-road / trail / cross-country running ’cos my deep cyclocross love cannot abide anything else. All of which has to wait until this so far several weeks of chronic fatigue fucks the fuck off and I can do more than walking. The colour of these shoes though is way more mad hectic in real life.
Got my arse out the door and into Germanic nature today. First time in a long time. Balcony / kitchen riding on my trainer has been the default I’ve fallen into for the last few months. But I needed to actually ride and wear all that fancy gear I bought earlier in the year and do those fun things like get lost, are we there yet? and surprise! here’s a bridge where you need it.
Pink socks I wore for the first time and managed to smear my chainring all over. Lucky I was using dry lube (not the name of my sex tape) and it washed out. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado kit. Riding outdoors with a cadence sensor makes me really wish I had a power meter (or maybe Crank Brothers would make power meter pedals?). One banana for 3 hours was cutting it fine. Two bidons was actually about right but both should have been electrolyte.
The riding though. Funny how being bolted in place on an indoor trainer makes you forget how to do things like ride on sand and roots. I’ve got weirdly strong from all the indoor trainer riding and weirdly weak in holding a good riding position. Cars are still scary, even though German drivers are generally pretty considerate — if you also make like a car and be very literal in describing what you’re about to do. Forests are the shit. East of Berlin is fucking beautiful. Lakes are also the shit. The houses out there make me yearn for living in an actual house surrounded by trees and stuff. Getting whistled at by the boyz in their whips on Sonnenallee is … cheers lads, good to know I’m home.
I won the Zwift women’s NYC sprint jersey the other day.
Bunch of words there. Zwift is the online virtual environment I train on my bike and smart trainer in; NYC is the Zwift world which has multiple routes to ride in Central Park; and the sprint jersey is a rolling leaderboard of fastest sprint, retained until someone rides faster or for a maximum length of one hour, when it’s passed on to whoever is next down the list.
So, first ride post-vaccine and feeling kinda low-level chronic fatigue-y and not wanting to abuse myself on a proper training ride and nonetheless going a little too hard on a free ride ’cos I have no modulation, I hit a downhill slope and want to make some speed. Which leads into the sprint. And I’m in the wrong gear and all of the above and because I’m an aggressively competitive cunt when it’s time to compete I want to at least put down a not shameful time. Wrong gear and feeling grotty and on a cyclocross bike but I can still spin 130+ rpm which means lots of Watts and I cross the finish line looking at my time going, “Yeah, coulda been worse,” and then “Why the fuck is my jersey green?”
It’s green ’cos the woman in second place was 1/10th of a second slower.
I’ve written before about how I avoid competing with other (cis) women because of (trans) reasons. The last years this has become much more of a mainstream spectacle with a variety of intersecting fuckeries including: Republicans trying to legislate trans girls out of sports and bathrooms; cis women athletes like Caster Semenya, Christine Mboma, Beatrice Masilingi all banned from the Olympics because regulations around women and testosterone levels, which ‘coincidentally’ seem to hit Black women; cis women like JK Rowling and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie using their massive social media following to target trans women; more legislation in the UK effectively barring access to puberty blockers for trans children. Those are the ones I can remember this morning, and because I’m talking about sport and competing here, I’m not including the almost daily murder of trans women who are disproportionately Black, Brown, Indigenous, migrants and reliably doing the only work open to us: sex work. And not the nice, sanitised, white cis women doing pole dancing classes or queer AFAB porn type of sex work either.
When I won that jersey — and let’s be clear, it’s a very minor win — I experienced the unique duality all us women — cis and trans — know, us who are made illegitimate by this legislation and the generations-long culture of cis feminism (the TERF kind, which is also white feminism and yes, you can be Black or anywhere else in the BIPoC acronym and be a white feminist) colluding with white christian conservative politics. The duality is the visceral joy of winning inseparable from the dead conviction it’s because we’re not really women. And knowing someone’s eventually going to make us winning or even turning up an issue.
I’ve been a dancer for pushing 25 years. The training and experience is inscribed all the way to my bones. It shapes how I think and feel and live, whether I’m dancing or not. I’ve been an athlete for all that time as well, both as a dancer and, at various times, rock climbing and cycling. I train around a dozen hours a week out of habit and love and to prevent myself from falling apart. Like Martyn Ashton said, “You might be physically fit but you won’t be unscathed.” I started cycling to find a way to maintain the physical intensity I need when my knees had been in constant pain for years. I’m not especially good at it, just like climbing or dance I could get to a reasonably high level of proficiency but I’d have never made it as a professional, or the upper levels which get called ‘elite’. I know my capabilities, physiological, mental, emotional, all that, and know so much of being a dancer or athlete is those last two.
But all that counts for shit when I’m a trans woman taking the green jersey off a cis woman.
When that happens, when I even show up like at the Rapha Women’s 100, the advantages I bring from those 25 years of fucking hard work are rendered null and replaced by the supposed genetic, chromosomal, hormonal, skeletal, muscular, physical, cultural, probably spiritual and astral advantages I have because I was assigned male at birth. It doesn’t matter there are cis women who are taller, bigger, stronger and way more hot than me (Hi! Liz Cambage!). It doesn’t matter how early I got on hormones — and it certainly doesn’t matter that having to prove my validity as a woman entails a violation of my privacy and self all the way into my pants and blood. And Caster Semenya knows all about that too.
As much as possible, I’m explicitly ‘out’ on Zwift. There’s no LGBT checkbox, but I do wear the Pride kit, and following the convention of putting additional info in your name, I have ‘[trans femme af]’. This isn’t about Pride or ‘feeling proud’ or about being ‘out’. To those same bones I have no interest in the colonialism upon which these words and concepts created themselves. It’s about making sure there’s visibility and representation (also words which leave me tired). Once the big name trans athletes are accounted for, there’s a massive absence of trans athletes — and dancers. I don’t want to give space to cis people to pretend we don’t exist, aren’t in the room. I do feel an obligation to make sure other trans people — especially BIPoC trans women and femmes — know they’re not the only one in the room. And there’s a long, long conversation about AFAB queer hostility to femininity and athleticism which I don’t have the skin or patience or time for here, but that’s part of it. And the exhausting whiteness of dance and climbing and cycling is another part.
I was talking with Gala yesterday and I joked my motivating force is vengeance.
So here’s how it is: I won that green jersey ’cos I’m a multiethnic trans femme aunty with decades of hard physical experience under my lingerie, who’s highly competitive and capable, who won on an off-day on the wrong bike in the wrong gear and I wasn’t even trying. I’m that fucking good.
And y’know what else? It doesn’t matter. It’s not that big, it doesn’t mean anything. In the moment of competing and winning it’s a rush and we’d do it whether there’s organised, capitalism-based sport or not. After the moment, days, weeks, years later, for the vast majority of us who never made a career out of it and for quite a few who did, it simply doesn’t feature in our lives. It wouldn’t even merit 1200 words if it wasn’t for the reality of being trans or cis women pushing our way in where, on their terms, we aren’t welcome and don’t belong.
I got an email from my Steuerberater yesterday. He wanted to let me know that after much back-and-forth for the second time, the Finanzamt had accepted my 2019 surgery as an expense against my income. So, no horrific tax bill for me, and after three years, I’m done with all that. (Unless of course the transphobic gods of German bureaucracy decide to non-consensually buttfuck me in the future for some extremely obtuse exception of German bureaucracy.)
Three years. The whole ‘earn mad cash get surgery’ process took less than a year — less than a year on my fourth attempt since my teens at stacking that paper — but the consequences of that took the extra two. Dealing with specific Finanzamt consequences, I mean. Which should serve as an object lesson for cis people in demonstrating how for trans people everything moves on a much slower time and everything involves shoving against immovable legal, medical, social, political, financial institutions and processes.
I celebrated the best way I know, having Type 2 fun. Type 2’s the fun where you suffer at the time and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” and only later it magically becomes ‘Fun!’ (Celebrating like this mainly because I don’t have a favourite sex worker on speed dial, otherwise I’d be sorted for a different, Type 1 fun.)
Massive, unending thanks and love to my cherished ones, Dasniya, Gala, Katrin, and Vass who turned up for me during all this ?. The trans femme goddesses and deities saw you and don’t forget.