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Transgender Activist and Bike Racer Molly Cameron
Episode 1924th June 2021 • BikePortland Podcast • Pedaltown Media Inc
00:00:00 00:39:03

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Welcome to the relaunch of the BikePortland Podcast.

In our first episode since 2016 (!), BikePortland editor and publisher Jonathan Maus talks with Molly Cameron, the Portland-based professional cycling team manager and newly-minted transgender rights advocate who just founded RIDE, (Riders Inspiring Diversity & Equality). In this wide-ranging interview, Molly shares her views on anti-transgender legislation sweeping the US and how the cycling industry should respond to it. She also shares her personal story of being discriminated against when she first arrived in Portland, how she balances community expectations, and the deep sense of duty she feels to help transgender people and other marginalized groups.

Transcripts

Jonathan Maus (:

Welcome to the first episode of the new BikePortland Podcast. If you're feeling a bit of déjà vu, it's because we used to have a monthly podcast from 2013 to about 2016. So, this is more like a relaunch than something truly new for us. We're giving it another try because there are so many interesting voices to share and so many important things to talk about. As for what to expect, if you follow us on our other platforms, like the BikePortland website, our social channels, or on YouTube, you'll know that we cover just about everything related to how cycling and mobility in general intersect with our lives.

Jonathan Maus (:

On today's episode, I'll chat with Portlander Molly Cameron. I've covered Molly for over 15 years, going back to the days when she owned a scrappy little bike shop downtown called the Veloshop and was an up and coming star of the cyclocross scene. These days, Molly runs a professional women's cycling team and has recently found herself thrust into national headlines for taking a stance against a slew of anti-transgender bills introduced by Republican lawmakers across the United States. Molly is transgender, but as you'll learn from our interview, it's not something she's always put front and center. Now, she feels like she has no choice.

Jonathan Maus (:

In early June, Molly launched RIDE, which stands for Riders Inspiring Diversity and Equality, a group she hopes will become a confidential point of contact between the transgender, LGBTQ+ community, and the cycling industry. When we spoke, she was in the midst of launching her new organization and had just returned from a trip to Arkansas to meet with cycling industry partners and to learn more about how anti-transgender legislation is hurting people in that state.

Jonathan Maus (:

You've certainly been in this work a long time, but you've decided to ramp things up. Can you help people who may not know you as well? Talk to me a little bit about the years leading up to this and some of that work in this space that you've done. Can you tell me something about those experiences in the past five, 10 years, the work you've done behind the scenes?

Molly Cameron (:

I've just been a visible point of contact for the community, right? In a very broad, general way, it's almost anybody that's an outlier in cycling, even physically. Personally, I've looked... Well, I laugh. I've looked almost the same for 20 years, but also it was just like I presented way much more femmy in, I don't want to say the beginning. But when I moved to Portland, I came from San Francisco and I was wearing skirts more and I definitely wore more makeup and eyeliner and a little halter tops and stuff. And then it's just interesting. Not a lot of people have talked to me about this, but some have, where when I started the bike shop out of necessity, I couldn't get a job in Portland. No bike shop would hire me.

Molly Cameron (:

I mean, this is something I don't think you and I ever talked about, and it's all related to your question. I couldn't get a job. There was blatant discrimination, and then there was quiet discrimination. I'm not naming any names and I'm not going to put any shops on blast, but shops and managers that are still at shops that exist now either laughed directly in my face when they looked at my resume and then looked at me and then said, "Huh, Molly" or some shit. No one said like, "Hey, we're not going to hire a transgender person," but it's that subtle discrimination, where even 20 years ago as a very experienced mechanic and I would have been an asset to any business.

Molly Cameron (:

I've just been out in that sense. This is almost the call bullshit on me thing a little bit, I personally feel like I've never... Well, okay, I've never felt comfortable being like, "Hey, I'm transgender. Come support my business," or, "Hey, I'm transgender. Sponsor me as an athlete and work with me," or like, "Hey, I'm vegan. I've been a vegan forever." There are things about my identity that are in these communities, but I'm also haven't been shy about being forward with that, but it's never been... I mean, certainly, I've been interviewed and it's been like, "Molly Cameron, vegan transgender, bike shop owner," right? But in my marketing and stuff and even in the shop, it wasn't like... I mean, I don't think I've ever actually had a gay pride flag on my bike shop window or any visible signifiers that like, "Hey, I'm a part of these communities."

Molly Cameron (:

I don't know if that answered your question, but I became a point of contact. I think certainly after the first few years, then there was some buzz, obviously helped by you and people like you that were... People are always looking for something that's different in a story. And it's interesting. I'm not saying I'm interesting, but I was doing something a little different and just slightly outside of the norm within cycling.

Jonathan Maus (:

I'm curious, if you set your shop up like that, did you feel like you had to prove to people that you could just be on par on those more traditional metrics, right? Or were you afraid maybe to be more out in the open, I mean, given that experience?

Molly Cameron (:

That was absolutely front and center. It's funny. I haven't thought about that in such a long time. I've been saying a lot recently, certainly in the last three months, I really am coming from a place of so much privilege. I'm older. I'm established in the industry. I have nothing left to prove in bike racing. I have nothing left to prove in the bike industry. I'm also white. I also know that I present as a dude. I go to any bike race, and people that don't know me would just look at me and they're like, "Oh, you're just some fucking bike racer dude, whatever." So I have so much privilege, but I have... Yeah. Maybe that's really solidified itself in the last handful of years, the last five or six years or something, where even running the women's team and just being a little more present at a higher level nationally or whatever.

Molly Cameron (:

But yes, in the early days, I did. I was like, "Look, I just want to be a good business. I don't want to be the transgender business or the vegan business, or the punk rock business. Those are my roots and who I am, but no, I want to be a legit business." That was always the driving thing for me. Even with my team, I'm like... The women's team has always been like, "Look, these are athletes first." I mean, I even hated calling it a women's team. I always say like, "Point S Tyre sponsored by Nokian Tyre women's team." And I'm like, "No, we don't want to call it a women's team. It's just a bike race team. We want to be known just for what we are and what we're doing." But then also I want to respect and amplify women and be like, "Well, we are women. We want to amplify that this is a women's program."

Molly Cameron (:

But yeah, you're right. I was so conscious of it. God, I mean, you got to remember, too, I was some broke punk rock kid that started a bike shop and I didn't have a business plan or funding or any concept of business as business as I know it now, so I was just doing the thing. I was like, "I need to work on bikes to pay my rent." And then that built and developed over time. And then handful of years into that, it was like, "Oh God, I need to make payroll and logistics and forecasting."

Jonathan Maus (:

Yeah. I feel like there's a step. You came in. You establish yourself as a respected shop owner and person in the community, riding, racing, having the shop. And then I guess fast forward a long time, and you did a women's cycling team, which you didn't do a transgender vegan cycling team.

Molly Cameron (:

Right. Exactly.

Jonathan Maus (:

You did a women's team, so I feel like that's another step. And then here you are, coming up here more recently, listening to all this bullshit in the news happening with the legislation and I feel like, and that's another step. It's like, "You know what, I'm just going to go for it and do transgender nonprofit, trans rights or human rights." Right? And so, there you go. It's almost like you've been avoiding this all this time in a way, and now I feel like you maybe got to the point in your life, where you're like, "I've got the skills and the experience, so why not just do it?" I mean, is that a fair assessment of how this happened?"

Molly Cameron (:

Again, you're the one person that could actually legitimately asked me that question because no one has been even aware... You're right. Yeah. I just want to answer your question. Yeah. You know what, you saying that, just like... I mean, I have chills. I don't know if you can see the hair standing up on my hairy ass arms. I have goosebumps because I think you're right. I think in a way, I have been avoiding this because I just want to... Not in a sinister way, where I don't want to amplify transgender messaging. I mean, you've seen me certainly in the last decade. I'm more forward with that and that's front and center. I mean, I've never not been out. I've always been very vocal and direct about who I am, what my identity is, my community is and all this stuff, being queer, being trans, but I don't know if... I mean, again, I haven't been avoiding it in a sinister way and not even in a business way. I mean, that's something really key, too.

Molly Cameron (:

Business is business and sport is sport. This is something now, too, and this is almost at the heart of why I started RIDE, because my intent is never and has never been to make the sport political or business political, right? Again, just as much as I've never led with my identity and been like, "I'm a transgender business owner." It's like, "No, I'm just a business person like every other business person out there." But yeah, I haven't been avoiding it for fear of damaging my brand or losing partnerships or not getting deals. Just you asked that question and it just made me think and made me go, "Fuck, have I been avoiding this?" And then what happened is this wave of legislation really just made it easy for me to be like... Well, also, it didn't make anything. I got drawn into this. It was cyclocross in Arkansas, right?

Molly Cameron (:

One thing that I've been talking about a lot, but I was born in Texas. My dad was born in Piggott, Arkansas in Eastern Arkansas. My grandparents were teachers and high school level coaches in Arkansas before they moved to upstate Pennsylvania, when I was... I think I was in my teens. I was younger. So, I'm from the South. I grew up Southern Baptist. And then my parents were teenagers and my dad joined the military. So I grew up in the military in the '90. Well, I was born in '76, so in the '80s, and then into the early '90s, in don't ask, don't tell in the era of this. So, it's wild because I was just drawn back to like... Well, now, I got drawn into this.

Molly Cameron (:

I was talking to Jeremy Powers, who is a former professional cyclocross. He's pro bike racer, road racer, multiple national champion, one of the better male cross racers of certainly my generation. Yeah. He's just laying it on. We just were touching base and is like, "Ah, yeah. You're the chosen one here. This is like your whole life's work." This was a horrible Jeremy Powers impression, but he's laying it on with this Massachusetts accent. And it just hit me. This was a month or two ago. I was like, "Fuck, you're right." Cyclocross, bike racing, business, and then I'm kind of like also the South. I'm not from Arkansas. I will never say I'm an Arkansan, but I have blood roots from there. It's just wild. You couldn't have scripted this.

Molly Cameron (:

This whole wave of legislation sweeping the U.S. caught everyone by surprise. I mean, I had no idea this stuff was on the table or in dozens and dozens of states. It was just like, "What?" It just seemed like it caught the left by surprise and everyone had to be reactive. It's just crazy. Not only is all the stuff crazy and voter rights and all these racist laws and these transphobic and homophobic and anti-women, Texas just passed a sweeping ban on abortion. What? Are you kidding me? I think people felt like we let out the sigh of relief when Trump lost the election. As much as we weren't celebrating Biden winning necessarily, we're like, "Okay. At least things can kind of go back to normal." But then it was like, "No, no things, aren't going back to normal." The right is completely empowered now. The conservative side is like, "We can just do crazy shit and it's going to fly and probably pass."

Molly Cameron (:

It's wild. That's what we're seeing as a reaction, certainly in bike racing and the industry of cycling is just no one knows what to do. We're like, "Oh my God, what are we doing?" Again, Powers was like, "Yeah, this is like, your life's work. You're the chosen one here." I was like, "Fuck, you're right." I have so much experience in all of these aspects of what's happening and I can legitimately weight into this. So a month in, I was like, "This has to be work. I'm burned out." This work is actually easy for me because it's just me being me and this is all in my wheelhouse, but if I don't pivot and actually start making this my work... I mean, my work right now is being an athlete and doing sports and outdoor industry marketing and storytelling and being at races and events. I'm like, "Well, if I don't pivot and start to incorporate some of this policy and advocacy work as my paid work, then I'm fucked. I'm going to burn out."

Molly Cameron (:

I'm smart enough. I'm not naive enough to think this is going to go away in a month or two years or 10 years. But if I don't pivot, I'm going to burn out and I'm going to have to tap out entirely and not do anything and just run my business and just do my thing, which didn't sit right with me either. So I put the pieces together to be like, "Okay. How can I start engaging brands?" So, here I am trying to navigate working with the USA Cycling and UCI to do the right thing for trans folks. Also, this is bike racing. When I'm in Arkansas, most trans folks aren't a part of the bike racing community. How can I best serve and advocate for them when their family members are dying? Literally, there's this huge disconnect, where we can know that in our heads and be like, "Right. Trans youth are dying. Okay. We got to work on this problem." Black youth and black folks are dying.

Molly Cameron (:

We can be like, "Oh yeah, we understand this problem. Now, how do we work on it?" But it's another thing to go there. I mean, I went there because I want to be on the ground and physically be there and try to meet these people and talk to them and see what they want to do. Most of them don't care about it. They're like, "Cool, bike race, whatever. How can the bike racing and cycling help us?" They're like, "Cool. We don't really care about bikes. We're trying to survive. We're moving families out of the state." I mean, they're actively moving families out of Arkansas because they're like, "Yeah. This is law now. We can't exist here." And that's a reality that the bike industry isn't... I mean, again, even on the ground, in Northwest Arkansas, I'm kind of like, "They're aware of the issue. They're paying attention, but look, you don't realize how hard this is hitting families and your workforce and your citizens."

Jonathan Maus (:

Yeah. I feel like you're saying that you would hope that USA Cycling or just the bike industry, to use that more general term, could just maybe be... One thing they can do, if you're saying they're not going to be able to just slow down the huge machine and the money of these big events, could they be more clear about their stance on transgender participation? Is that you're saying a role RIDE can have? It's like, "Okay. We're going to make sure that your communication and all your ducks are all lined up much more stronger and clearer about how you feel about transgender people competing." Is that kind of like what you're saying you would hope that they would do, is be... Just have some clarity around that at least to give some foundation to the issue. Do you feel like right now transgender folks don't really know where they stand and that was part of the anxiety?

Molly Cameron (:

Yeah. I mean, it's unfortunate for USA Cycling that a bad interview with their CEO was one of the first public-facing pieces of information in response to all this, and then it just followed up with these missteps.

Jonathan Maus (:

Yeah. One thing I see a lot when I look at how the bike industry reacts to some of these not new issues, but issues that have become much more sharp in the last couple of years, social justice-related issues, is this real thing and maybe you felt that too, but there's a real positive vibe culture in the bike world, where it's all good. We're just here to ride bikes. It's all cool. No big deal. Do you think sometimes that maybe blinds people to the fact that if you don't actually see things and engage some difficult things, the people who do are more hurt. It remind me of what you said earlier when we were chatting about like, "Oh no. Yeah, we're inclusive. We believe everybody." But it's almost like if they don't speak it and say it and somehow acknowledge that transgender people don't feel like they have a place in racing, that it hurts those people. Do you sense that, too, with USA Cycling?

Molly Cameron (:

So with regards to the USA Cycling, no. I think USA Cycling is taking all of this DEI, diversity and inclusion work very seriously. Honestly, I really do. I believe that. I mean, that's the thing, I'm not here to throw USAC under the bus. As much as I generally don't trust that they're equipped or should be the organization leading the charge here, I do also respect and want to acknowledge publicly they're actually doing the work. It's not a personal slide to them. I just don't know if our sporting governing body needs to be the one transforming itself into a social justice and advocacy org, but they are doing the work. My issue is that they're not there yet. I feel like I know what I want them to do, but I want them to take a back seat and let... Again, it's not that I'm trying to position RIDE as like, "Well, wait, we're here now. We need to be the leaders." It was all of this stuff on single issues, right?

Molly Cameron (:

I'm like, "If we're talking about police violence in the black community, I want to see black people involved in the leadership of these movements and agenda items." I want to be an ally and I want to be there, but I'm not black. I'm not the person to be talking about the black experience. So, that's basically it. I was like, "Well, until USA Cycling hires a member of the transgender community and they absolutely have members of the LGBTQ community working there," but I'm like, "No, actually, on this issue, you really need to have a transgender voice spearheading this from USAC, really." Ooh, I don't know what I want y'all to do. Let's figure it out, but I know I don't want you to be taking the lead on this. I wouldn't want, honestly, any bike brand to, at this point. No bike brand has a... I mean, the USA Cycling doesn't have a history of... I mean, because, also, let's just go back.

Molly Cameron (:

This is politics in Arkansas. This is politics across the United States. Again, USA Cycling, shouldn't be waiting into these political and legal battles. They don't have a history or track record of doing any actual real political work or legal work. Because your question was like, "Well, what about the awareness of this stuff and the visibility?" One of the first things I told the CEO on a call, the week after the first law was you already have an existing policy for transgender and non-binary participation in sport from the professional level to the beginner and amateur level. It already exists. It's there. Now, you have one page on your website that says, "Here is our policy." It's a link to the policy page in their rule book. I've been doing this work for 20 years. I just told USA Cycling, I was like, "Look..." The first thing I suggested was like, "I'm still dealing with transgender men reaching out to me and being like, 'I want to race. I want to get involved in bike racing, but I'm afraid because I'm taking hormone replacement therapy and I'm taking testosterone. Is that technically doping?' "

Molly Cameron (:

And then I say, "No, it's not. Here, let me help you navigate that." I mean, I'm doing this work and I have been, and USA Cycling still isn't equipped to do it. They're starting to do the work, and now this is all front and center, but I'm like... I told the CEO, I was like, "I will fly to Colorado Springs and we can produce a video and it'll look just like this. It'll be a couple of us as a transgender experienced old, haggard, transgender athlete and maybe we get someone from USAC there and we talk, or maybe some other trans athletes and we do an informational video, where we can explain how a transgender and non-binary athlete can interface with USA Cycling and get involved and what the process is and who the points of contact are, what do you need to provide." Because right now, there's not a point of contact for this community and there really should be.

Molly Cameron (:

I mean, there needs to be a way for people to confidentially interface with these governing bodies, with these brands and then know what the process is. It's just not there. Right now, you just fire an email off. Honestly, you want to talk about making the sport inclusive and welcoming, that is a barrier right there. And then the other thing, too, is a video like that will serve to educate all of the haters and the people that don't want to see transgender involved in the sport to be like, "Hey, there's actually been a policy for this since the early 2000s." So, that was my first thing. I was like, "Look, Rob, we need to produce this video. Your next press release should just say two sentences. We're assessing the situation as these laws sweep the nation, give us a little time to develop a response. The second line should be here is our transgender policy for participation in sport. It's the same policy that the UCI and the International Olympic Committee has and we are all going to adhere to that policy in regards to our events and athlete participation across the United States."

Molly Cameron (:

If I was the CEO of that organization, I would have come out with that, a very simple one paragraph, two lines, two sentences. But no, they came out with a two-page rambling press release, talking about all their accolades and all the events they produce and all this stuff. And I'm like, "This community has members that are dying. Their youth and their families are dying. Now, these laws are laws in these states." I think USAC a lot is like, "Oh, we can't do much. We can't do much," but yet they're trying to lead the charge and be like, "We're going to do all this stuff," and I'm like-

Jonathan Maus (:

Well, the championships are going to go on. And so, there's going to be a lot of work to do. I mean, this issue, partly because you're not going to let it, people are going to be quiet about this.

Molly Cameron (:

Yeah. Trans kids aren't going away. Kids are amazing. I love it. Kids are amazing. There's so much positive coming out of this. It's really hard because I'm directly talking... I mentioned that hospital, on the Memorial Hospital in Fayetteville, where they're like, "Look, the day that that law got signed into law, kids were killing themselves." It's really hard for me. This is a thing that's emotionally hard, is this work is easy for me in cycling in the industry around gender and sexuality, but it's hard for me to be like, "Why am I fighting so hard for bike racing, to help bike racing and the bike industry fix itself when my kids are dying in Arkansas?" I know that sure, I could go back to Arkansas now and just start working on the streets with some of these orgs that are literally helping relocate families and do this hard work, but there's a much larger and longer term, higher level.

Molly Cameron (:

I hate using war analogies and battle analogies, but it's this social war. If I can help fight this culture war and start steering these large businesses and brands that can affect a lot of this stuff, I mean, that's my strength and my wheelhouse. But yeah, there's a lot of positive change coming. I can definitely say USA Cycling is doing the work. Are they going to do it perfect? No, but they're doing the work, right? These big bike brands and businesses, that's partly why I've started RIDE because I can tell you, some of them have their shit together and are killing it. Others, not so much. I'm not going to do the shame thing. That doesn't work, right? I want to go and interface and use all of my legitimacy and credibility as a pro bike racer and a team manager. I'm so invested in this sport and industry and I can be like, "Look, I want to help us get better."

Molly Cameron (:

I didn't coin this phrase bike washing. The sport industry loves to bike wash. "Bikes are great. Everything's great. Bike's great." You've seen it over... The two of us have seen it 20 years in Portland and it's just like, "We're going to bike wash everything and make it great. Our city is great because we have bike lanes." It's like, "No, the city has a lot of issues." There's a ton of issues and it's not all cycling's fault, but cycling absolutely has the money and power and influence and infrastructure and people in it that we can do something.

Jonathan Maus (:

Yeah, especially in Arkansas, right? I mean, I wouldn't sell yourself short in terms of being a cycling forward activist in Arkansas, actually carries a bit more weight than other places, like you said, because of the big money there that's investing in cycling. So again, I just see the championship scene coming up as a real opportunity to have that stage and to push some of this stuff, right?

Molly Cameron (:

Yes. The other crazy thing about Arkansas is there is so much money in cycling there and there are so many... I mean, there's over 120 clubs and teams in the region. You would think like, if you were like, "Oh, Portland, there's 120 cycling clubs. Oh yeah, that makes sense." But you're like, "Wait, Arkansas, what?" I mean, cycling really is, as much as we hate the bike washing aspect, it is this... The bikes are freedom, and then cycling is this amazing unifier. It can bring people together. There's so much infrastructure in Arkansas, but that also makes it a bit of a challenge. But I'm directly interfacing with a lot of these organizations.

Molly Cameron (:

I can't partner with everyone. I also know, as much as I'm finding allies in Arkansas, there are definitely enemies in Arkansas that don't want to support people of color or queers or trans folks, right? So, fine. Sure. Let's not politicize the sport. Let's not politicize the industry, which is cool because then I ended up hanging out with these total right-wing conservative kooks, but then we get this common ground of bikes and then I'm the gateway drug to the transgender community. I get it. I'm white. A, I am white. A, I present male and-

Jonathan Maus (:

So it sounds like you want to use the positive, I think, to your advantage to bring people in and keep the politicization out of it-

Molly Cameron (:

Oh, absolutely.

Jonathan Maus (:

... to some degree so that people come into it. I get what you're saying. I think about that a lot too, get everybody inside the tent and at least let them hear what's being said before they decided to leave. So, it's a fine line though. You're going to have to really walk that line.

Molly Cameron (:

Your voice is cracking. Right. Right. Yeah. I'm going to keep doing this. It's great because we're both in these good positions, where we can come in and just be ourselves and then listen. I mean, it is interesting because I'm not... I feel like I'm dipping my toes into being a journal, not a journalist, but I've been taking photos and more video and stuff now. And I really do, actually, I'm starting to love just being present and listening. I will listen to some right-wing kook. I'll give them the space to talk and say that stuff. But ultimately, and this is what has been echoed now as I interface with these executives and high level executive levels at these national and global brands in the cycling industry and the sport, and they just want facts because you're getting money and facts.

Molly Cameron (:

I'm holding space for the emotional part of this. Again, trans kids are dying. Black folks are dying. These are realities that I need to hold space for. But when I go into a business meeting, I'm not going to start off with these incendiary. "You have to pay attention to me because people are dying." No, that's not going to work. I'm going to say, "You need to pay attention to me because there are dollars here and there are membership and consumer dollars here." I mean, that's business, and that's the thing that so many people struggle with and I can exist in that space and I'm comfortable in that space. I don't love it. I really don't. I don't love meetings and board rooms and I don't love corporate stuff, but it's this necessary evil that I can leverage all my privilege to help our communities.

Molly Cameron (:

Literally, I laugh and I was like, "I'm trying to help people that don't look like me in every way." Right? I can go and, I mean, again, legitimately speak to this experience in the sport, in racing, in bikes, in bike shops at the industry level and brands and manufacturing. Here we go. So now I'm doing it. Now, I'm doing it. I'm working really hard on the next actual steps, whether it's with USA Cycling, without USA Cycling. The Worlds is going to happen, so I'm working with people and individuals and organizations and businesses, like in Fayetteville, in Bentonville, Arkansas. Yeah, it's a lot. I'm not riding bikes or anything right now. All I do is I'm sitting here in front of three or four screens trying to just get shit going and start getting back out to events.

Jonathan Maus (:

How far away until you're showing up as RIDE versus showing up as... I mean, you still have your other irons in the fire, right?

Molly Cameron (:

The urgency to be present and put energy into all of this advocacy work in a general way in my role with RIDE is the priority right now. This really overlaps with me doing all this, being an athlete and being at events and doing sports marketing and then supporting out women.

Jonathan Maus (:

So complementary to the stuff you've been doing already.

Molly Cameron (:

Yeah. Also, it's not like I started RIDE and now I've got hundreds, thousands of dollars in funding and I can pay myself and pay some staff and do all this work. It's like, no, part of this year feels like I'm going to work on these issues and try to help and interface with USA Cycling and all these orgs. If USA Cycling hired a transgender person of color to be their CEO this week, cool. Then we'd interface for a little and I think the reasons for RIDE to exist will change. When I started it, I was like, "Okay. I'm going to start this org." Last thing I need is more things on my plate, but I need to do this and I'm in the position to do this. I'm happy to hand it off. I'm happy to step back. Again, in six months, if we get through the World Championships and if the urgency and the need isn't there, like it is... I mean, again, there's these discriminatory laws. Maybe I ended up going and working for Athlete Ally or some higher level org, right?

Molly Cameron (:

I'm old. I'm 45 this year. I don't want to keep being a pro bike racer. I really don't. I love bikes so much and I love cycling. I love racing. My heart is in being a racer. Now, it's a lot of work. I got to spend 20 hours a week on my bike training to get to a point where I can just barely be competitive with these fast pros. It's a lot of work. It's not that I don't have the drive to be a pro, it's just a lot of work. As I'm getting older, being fast at a high level is harder and harder and harder. That's the reality of getting old. I'm like, "Well, look, maybe the Molly Cameron version 3.0 looks like a pivot into doing this advocacy and work in business and sport, right?" So, I'm in a good position. It's just practically a good transition here for me to... It's just horrible. I take no pleasure in the fact that these laws are on the table-

Jonathan Maus (:

Yeah. Yeah, I hear what you're saying.

Molly Cameron (:

... that this work has to be done now, but it's a good time and position for me to kind of like go, "Okay. I can do this work." We did some good fundraising. There's a little bit of money there for me to do this work for a month. The coming month or two, I'm like, "Cool. I have the capacity to start doing this stuff now." What does the fall and winter look like? I'm still trying to find room to train this summer to have a cross-season and race my bike. But if that doesn't happen because I'm get drawn into this policy and legal work, okay, that's fine. Then I'm going to do that. I don't want to say I'm not at risk of losing partnerships or anything because I still absolutely am. At a certain point, I've had conversations with these brands, where they're like, "Look, we support you because you're a fast athlete, not because you're a political activist."

Jonathan Maus (:

Yeah. That's why I love talking to you in this moment, given what you're pivoting to, because I'm not so sure what you just said is always going to be true. As soon as you start to take a stand on policy stuff and things get difficult, those emails may go differently, but you're going to have to... You're sounding like you're ready for that and you're not naive to think that it's always going to be hunky-dory if you continue to go down that path.

Molly Cameron (:

It's wild. I also have very long relationships here. I mean, these are over a decade long sponsorships and partnerships and having these calls with them... I mean, these brands are all over the U.S., whether they're a U.S. headquarters for a global brand or national headquarters for a national brand. They're in states that have these laws, like Idaho, Utah. I mean, luckily, California and Oregon are on the good side of things, but in South, in the Southern states. So having these conversations and starting with like, "Look, I'm not trying to make this political. We don't want to make the support political." And these brands are like, "Look, we're never going to say anything political." So I can leverage my decades of these relationships and go, "Look, I know you don't want to make this political and we're not going to make it political, but how can I be an asset to you?" I even say that to you, everybody. I'm like, "How can I help?" I know that Shimano and SRAM, Giant, Specialized, Cannondale, Trek, these huge, huge global brands, they're going to tackle this in their own ways.

Jonathan Maus (:

How can you make them more political without becoming too political basically? Yeah.

Molly Cameron (:

This is the question I'm asking myself every day, right? It's kind of that same question. What do I want USA Cycling to do, right? Is this fundamental thing here? And then I'm also like, "What do I want RIDE to do and Molly Cameron to do? How do we tackle these social issues without making them political?" One of the women on my advisory board was like, "Look, it isn't politics. This is human decency." She's like, "Some of this stuff will be political and is legal and political." But she's also like, "These are basic human rights and it's important to reframe that for these brands that this isn't a political discussion. This is human decency. This is just being a good human." Bike industry just wants to be like, "We're here and we support you because you're a fast bike racer." I mean, I had that call with a sponsor yesterday and they're like, "We're not waiting into this. We're going to support you because you're fast." Right? And it wasn't veiled threat. It wasn't like, "Hey, we're going to stop supporting you once you're fast," but that's on the table.

Molly Cameron (:

Again, once I stopped being a pro bike racer, what's the reason to support me with product and with money? I absolutely face losing sponsorship and money and opportunities. So, there's a way that I can continue to be involved and be an influencer, not to the public, but to the industry and to the sport and help the sport be engaged in these social issues without them having to come forward and be political, right? Maybe that's the subversive way I can help these brands. It's self-serving in the sense that I want everyone to be able to go to a bike event and feel welcome and comfortable. I'm such a private person. I really don't want to be in the public. I mean, maybe the angle here is I just disappear and I'm doing anonymous work behind the scenes with a better funded and larger organization and I can just hide out, pull the strings behind the scenes. Maybe I shipped an event or two, but right now this is my lot.

Jonathan Maus (:

It's really, really good to talk. I appreciate you sharing all that, especially at this moment of it. It's like your fundraising looks like it's going to reach the goal, which is a good sign. I feel like you get some of the work you've got to do and there's tons of stuff coming up. So, I don't know. Maybe we'll check in again in a few months.

Molly Cameron (:

All right. Keep in touch.

Jonathan Maus (:

I definitely will keep in touch, Molly. Thanks. And thanks for listening to this first episode of the relaunch of the BikePortland Podcast. Our theme music is a track called Broken Summer from the Audio Library. I'm your host, Jonathan Maus. Thanks for bearing with me while I figure out how all this audio editing stuff goes. Of course, don't forget to stay tuned and subscribe and all that good stuff, because we've got some great conversations coming up.

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