Patti Flynn Progresses Transgender Inclusion In Trail Running

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consultant Patti Flynn is working to create an inclusive space for the transgender community in trail running. In 2020, Flynn wrote a transgender policy for the TransRockies Run six day stage race. The goal of this policy is to inspire increased participation by transgender runners in the TransRockies Run and to make everyone on the starting line feel welcome.

Recently, I interview Flynn about her work as a DEI consultant, how she drafted the transgender policy for TransRockies Run, and what more our sport should be doing to create an accepting environment for every athlete.

[TAYTE POLLMANN] For someone who is unfamiliar with the term, could you describe the work of a DEI consultant and what you do?
[PATTI FLYNN] Generally, what we do is analyze a company by looking at their marketing strategies, diversity of their organization and the organizations they work with, etc. We also look at pay equity, inclusion surveys and analyze the many things that could impact how people feel working there. We try to determine areas they may have gaps in and create strategic plans for ways to make those gaps better.

[TAYTE] Tell us about your work with TransRockies? Did you have inspiration from other transgender policies in trail running?
[PATTI] I looked at policies for multiple races, including the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, for inspiration. I also took into account policies for other sports, such as powerlifting. While powerlifting is very different than running, I believe effective transgender policies will have universal ideas across any sport. My objective with writing a transgender policy for an organization is to make sure the trans-community feels included in the event. The policy I wrote for TransRockies was written in the same mindset; it was not a race policy, but an inclusion policy.

Patti Flynn. Photo: Spotograph.

[TAYTE] Could you explain in more detail what you mean by an “inclusion policy?”
[PATTI] Inclusion policies should start with the idea of being able to self report your gender. No one is going to self identify as a woman the day before a race just to improve their chances of getting on a podium. This just doesn’t happen, and if it does it’s just a “troll” who will be easily identifiable. It shouldn’t be incumbent on the marginalized group to have to prove themselves to be acceptable.

[TAYTE] What do you believe is the most important single feature in a transgender policy for trail races?
[PATTI] As I hinted at before: inclusion. This starts with self identification of gender and taking people at their word.

[TAYTE] What, in addition to drafting transgender policy for races, needs to happen so that more transgender runners feel welcome in the trail running community?
[PATTI] It starts with creating a welcoming environment. If you want to diversify your workforce, you can’t just start hiring people from underrepresented, marginalized groups. There first must be a framework for these groups to feel included in this workspace. If they don’t feel they belong, they won’t stay. The culture of an institution must change to be more inclusive, as opposed to exclusive.

[TAYTE] You were at the TransRockies race this year. Could you tell us what the event was like now that it has a transgender policy?
[PATTI] TransRockies is a good example of an inclusive racing space. After writing the Transgender policy for TransRockies, I went out to the event this year to make sure all the volunteers knew who I was. In this way, all the volunteers had a better understanding that there were transgender athletes in this year’s event and that an inclusion policy had been drafted. I think this race already does a great job with creating an inclusive space for more than just your typical white male trail runner. The race director and volunteers value the different types of people coming to their events and as a result they attract more diversity. There were more Black runners at this year’s event than when I was there in 2018, built largely upon the way Mirna Valerio was celebrated after finishing TransRockies.

Patti Flynn. Photo: Spotograph.

[TAYTE] What is one thing a race director needs to know when drafting a transgender policy?
[PATTI] A race director needs to involve the people who are impacted by the policy. If a race director is a cisgender white male, he is not going to have the understanding of what really needs to happen for a transgender inclusion policy at his events. At the very least, this race director needs to talk to people in the transgender community about the policy. It’s also important to understand that the policy should not be set in stone. The race director needs to be willing to make changes as more people in the trans-community may reach out and give their opinions.

[TAYTE] What plans do you have for your own trail running this year?
[PATTI] The only thing set for sure is TransRockies 2022. I’d also like to “speed hike” across California’s Catalina Island with a friend.

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