By Richard Pollina
Born a biological male, one South Korean has continued her passion in completive cycling after transitioning to a woman against biological female riders — not for glory, but to prove a point to “selfish” trans athletes.
Na Hwa-rin, 37, was raised in a Christian family but knew since the age of seven that she should have been born a female.
Following her transition last year she was legally recognized as a woman in the eyes of the South Korean government and has continued with her lifelong love of racing as a cyclist now as a female.
Na secured a victory at the Gangwon Sports Festival in June but had an out-of-character reason for racing and winning — she set out to prove biological men are physically superior to biological women.
Na, who was born and raised in Cheorwon, a city located about 40 miles northeast of Seoul and bordering North Korea, is the first recognized transgender athlete in all of South Korea and said the win had her feeling “more relieved than triumphant.”
“I am not proud of myself at all. I believe other transgender athletes would feel the same way. They may not want to admit it, but they’re being selfish. There is no honor as an athlete in that,” she told the outlet.
Before her transition, Na had already earned a reputation as a fierce competitor as a male — winning several medals in men’s races — some of which took place while she was undergoing hormone therapy, according to the South Korean Times.
Na is not “honored” by winning the race but used her momentum on the podium to send a message that athletic committees should include a “third gender” category for transgender athletes.
“It could be like how we have many weight divisions in some sports… Under the current binary system, women athletes will be discouraged, and their hard work might not be recognized due to the participation of transgender athletes,” she relayed to the outlet.
After clinching the victory, the transgender cyclist qualified to compete in the National Sports Festival — which she declined.
“I don’t want to make an issue to the point where I harm other people,” the cyclist told the outlet.
Na believes making a separate category is only fair to respect biological women athletes and other transgender athletes who wish to compete fairly against others with similar psychical characteristics.
“Trans woman athletes, no matter how hard they worked, will never be truly honored for their wins. Honor is the goal that all athletes aspire to attain, but this is a situation where nobody will be honored. I think that shouldn’t happen.”
As the only trans athlete in the country actively competing, she understands some people may ask, “Why should [they] do that for only one person?”
“If we lower the bar, more will join. The room will quickly fill up if we allow more people to compete in sports and let them live their dreams,” she told the outlet.
Na, who’s an asparagus farmer when she is not training or in competition, reiterated her message for winning the race and what she and others are looking for to pursue their athletic passions honorably.
“Respect and harmony,” she expressed to the outlet. “Those are the core values of Olympism and sports.”