Right-wingers are hounding trans sprinter CeCé Telfer – just because she said she wants to compete

American trans sprinter CeCé Telfer

Trans athlete CeCé Telfer has hit back after she was hounded by right-wingers who oppose her desire to take part in women’s athletics. 

The Jamaican-born US track star clapped back on Instagram after several anti-trans commentators, including former college swimmer Riley Gaines, criticised her for an interview in which she said she wants to compete in Olympic hurdling events. 

Speaking to LGBTQ+ outlet Them earlier this month, CeCé Telfer spoke about how the World Athletics’ ban on some trans women participating in women’s events had affected her, saying she still wanted to take “all the names, all the records, and everything” after her “dreams were taken away from me once again”.

CeCé Telfer became the first out trans woman to claim a National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) title when she won the Division II 400-metre hurdles at Franklin Pierce University, in New Hampshire, in 2019. However, national governing body USA Track and Field denied her the opportunity to compete in the Olympic trials in 2021 because of eligibility requirements on hormone levels.

She also spoke about her upcoming memoir, Make It Count: My Fight To Become The First Transgender Olympic Runner, and described being harassed and targeted by right-wingers.

Fox News, Breitbart and the Daily Mail, as well as commentators such as Gaines, criticised the interview, with British former Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies describing Telfer’s bid to take part in the Olympics as “cheating”, despite studies which show that trans women athletes do not have an advantage in elite sports.

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“I was heart-broken. I was distraught because I’m like: ‘Why are we going back? Why are we reverting?’ We’re literally going back in history,” Telfer said about the World Athletics ban on trans women in elite sports.

“It breaks my heart because I had an opportunity. The NCAA saw me. They gave me a chance to be that voice and be that physical change, and they were taking a step in the right direction and obviously creating history, hoping other organisations would follow.”

She added that she is trying to “mentally heal from the denial” of the ban and “look forward to the season ahead”, but that she is in a “very dark place right now” because of rising transphobia.

“Anti-trans rhetoric from past athletes, current athletes, is making it so much harder for women like me to exist in society and even compete in sports,” she said.

After several supporters backed Telfer, she expressed her fear that transphobia could have an even larger effect on transgender children.

“Imagine if I didn’t have a strong backbone and this doesn’t even scrape the surface of what I go through,” she wrote on Instagram on Monday (24 June). Imagine trans kids going through this. Kids who are not fully developed or have the mental capacity to handle hate like this.”

Olympic middle-distance runner and steeplechaser Colleen Quigley was one of those offering support, saying: “You have an army of love behind you, CeCé.”

And transgender race walker Chris Mosier said: “Never dim your light, CeCé. You’re here for a reason and you have so many people rooting for you as you change the world.”

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, a former Conservative MP and Olympic gold medalist, has defended trans inclusion in smaller, local events.

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