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Emily Bridges set to mount legal challenge against British Cycling’s transgender policy

“While I have learned not to attach my entire self-worth to cycling, I’ll still be fighting British Cycling’s decision in the courts and the streets,” Bridges recently told Vogue

Emily Bridges, the transgender cyclist at the centre of a storm that engulfed British Cycling over the past year, prompting the national governing body to update its transgender and non-binary participation policies, has confirmed that she is set to mount a legal challenge against those changes.

In May, over a year after it suspended its transgender policy with immediate effect in the wake of Bridges’ controversial exclusion from the women’s British Omnium Championship in April 2022 and following a nine-month review, British Cycling announced its decision to introduce a new ‘Open’ category for competitive events, which will consolidate the existing men’s grouping and run alongside the female category.

> British Cycling updates transgender policy, introduces new "Open" category

In an interview this week with British Vogue – as part of Vogue 25, the magazine’s list of 2023’s most influential women – Bridges said that she will “fight” British Cycling’s new transgender policies “in the courts and the streets”.

Bridges’ mother, Sandy Sullivan, confirmed to road.cc today that her daughter intends to launch a legal challenge against the policies.

In her interview with Vogue, Bridges – who, in the wake of the policy update in May, accused British Cycling of “furthering a genocide” against transgender people – said that despite anticipating the creation of a new ‘Open’ classification, which would effectively ban trans women from competing in the female category, she was still “devastated” by the decision.

“I was 10 when I started cycling competitively. I did a few sessions in a velodrome, and I was instantly hooked,” she said in the article. “Soon after, I began working my way up through the British cycling ranks, setting a national record in 2018 before joining the GB cycling team for a year in 2020. I left the team that year to transition, and in 2022, I was in talks to rejoin the GB cycling team with an eye on the 2024 Olympic campaign.

“However, in May 2023, news came that British Cycling, the national governing body for the sport, was placing a ban on transgender women competing in the women’s category. I had foreseen it happening, but the confirmation was still devastating. Cycling competitively was my life for the past 12 years. But now, I’m divesting from the sport – I have to.”

> British Cycling’s new ‘Open’ category “patently designed to make sure that transgender women will compete at a major disadvantage”, says “perplexed” transgender cyclist

She continued: “Trans inclusion in sports has long been a highly contentious issue due to unsubstantiated concerns about transgender women having a physical advantage over cisgender women.

“At the end of last year, a report by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport found that biomedical factors, such as bone density and lung size, do not pose an advantage for trans athletes, but that social factors – like nutrition and training quality – may do. I have dedicated my body to assisting research currently being undertaken at Loughborough University to shed more light on the issue.”

> UCI bans transgender female cyclists who have transitioned after puberty from competing in international women’s races

Just as in her initial critique of British Cycling’s new policy in May, Bridges once again lambasted what she regards as the governing body’s failure to tackle the sport’s inherent lack of diversity.

“Cycling is still an elitist sport, one where diversity, particularly at a competitive level, is bleak,” she says. “According to British Cycling’s website, the official Great Britain Cycling Team has only three non-white cyclists out of the 55 listed. It should focus its efforts on improving accessibility and making a concerted effort to diversify, not waging a war on trans competitors.

“As a kid, cycling was the thing that made me happiest in the world. But my relationship with the sport is complicated now. My experience over the past few years has tainted the positive memories, and I’ve had to really focus on the things that made the sport so enjoyable in the first place.

“And while I have learned not to attach my entire self-worth to cycling, I’ll still be fighting British Cycling’s decision in the courts and the streets. I’ll continue to march with my trans siblings and use the voice I have to challenge injustice in the world.”

British Cycling declined to comment when approached by road.cc.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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65 comments

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Sriracha replied to Cugel | 7 months ago
2 likes
Cugel wrote:

I feel its a mistake to asume that the current metrics of women-only sporting events should be used as some sort of definition of the "natural" limits of what women could achieve.

So read it again - I was talking about open competition.

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chrisonabike replied to Cugel | 7 months ago
0 likes

Cugel wrote:

The Big Men seem to assume that all sports are based on strength or the possesion of male hormones.  This is so obviously silly. Many sports are primarily based on skill and intelligent tactics or strategies. There's no reason based in hormones that women couldn't beat men in many sports .... if given the chances and faciities that men have in that sport to get better at it.

It seems that you're then begging comparison to the Big Men yourself by appearing to be saying (to be fair - with a lot of salient evidence on the internet...) that women have bigger brains to men's bigger brawn.

As Sriracha points out, outside of e-sports (more fun to be had - what is a sport?) normally it's mental ability / skill (and determination!) plus some measure of physique.  There seem to be enough men with sufficient wit/skill to mean that - across a population, at the higher levels - the extra from physicality means males will have the edge in most sports.  (Obvs. that doesn't mean that a random woman can't be better than a random man).

Interestingly there *are* some niches where females may have an advantage - extreme endurance for example (see e.g. Fiona Kolbinger in cycling).

You're quite correct though that in the past society has hobbled the ability of women to succeed in many areas.  Still true - in particular I think men still have (or expect to have) more freedom to do what they want with their time.  Even if that's spending more of it at work.

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Brauchsel replied to Cugel | 7 months ago
5 likes

You say this, in your boringly overblown style, every time this comes up. It's bullshit. Women don't post slower times, shorter distances, weaker punches etc because of patriarchy or because they don't get to compete against men. It's because they're female, and female humans are as a class weaker/slower than male humans. 

You dress this up with a faux-hippy "throw off society's chains and see what women can do" vibe, but it's so fucking insulting. Women athletes know that the best men are, and always will be, at a higher level to them. You can see this in all the results of all sports over the last century or so, and you can listen to what elite female athletes say. Your implication is that these women don't really know their capabilities, and that if they just tried a bit harder they could beat the boys. They know it isn't true, and unsurprisingly generally don't want to have to compete against men, because they'd lose. You might be ok with that, but they're not. 

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Cugel replied to Brauchsel | 7 months ago
0 likes

Brauchsel wrote:

You say this, in your boringly overblown style, every time this comes up. It's bullshit. Women don't post slower times, shorter distances, weaker punches etc because of patriarchy or because they don't get to compete against men. It's because they're female, and female humans are as a class weaker/slower than male humans. 

You dress this up with a faux-hippy "throw off society's chains and see what women can do" vibe, but it's so fucking insulting. Women athletes know that the best men are, and always will be, at a higher level to them. You can see this in all the results of all sports over the last century or so, and you can listen to what elite female athletes say. Your implication is that these women don't really know their capabilities, and that if they just tried a bit harder they could beat the boys. They know it isn't true, and unsurprisingly generally don't want to have to compete against men, because they'd lose. You might be ok with that, but they're not. 

You seem a bit hot under the collar there, Brau ole steamboat. Have I given your prejuduce an ache?   1

Wot a good job, though, that you're able to speak for all women in this matter, enabling them to be safe in their safe wee ghettos you've kindly arranged for them. But as you're so sure that "men are always best" we can be sure that shutting them up with your man-hoot about their inferiority will be welcomed, as it will give them more time to look after the babies and do the cookin'.

**********

But, to resume a more rational discourse, consider this:

In sport that's differentiated into men and women events, each class has it's own hierarchy, based on how well the sporting ones perform in a history of competitions. In cycling, for example, we have the categories, entered via the points system, with the higher end differentiated by means of team selection processes. It's the same in virtually every competitive sport.

So, you and me have no chance to enter the TdF because we've not got enough points, so to speak, even though we're fully made-up members of The Big Man class. (Well, you are).

Now, imagine we do away with these queer gender spits in competitive sport and just keep on with the "points" system of selection for who can compete in which events.

I know for a fact ('cos it happens now) that many women will get more points than many men down there in the lower orders of real amateur sport. They will be enabled to enter various open class races as a result. Men and women racing against each other!  I know - shocking!! What will Queen Victoria say?

Now imagine this scenario transposed up the hierarchy to professional cycling and other domains where there is currently gender-based suppresion of women (and other non-males). Why not allow women to at least attempt to get more points that enable them to enter "higher" class races containing pointed-up blokes? Some women will get those points. 

But if some won't, because your C19th theory that "women are all inherently weak and feeble" is true, what does it matter, as women will still rise as high as they actually can through sporting ability rather than because Brau says they're all feak and weeble; or, if they aren't, they ought to be and the Big Men will ensure it, by Jingo, by keeping them out of manland, the .. the .. the .. lesser beings!  

 

 

Avatar
LookAhead replied to Cugel | 7 months ago
3 likes

Gawd, even if you were right, ever, I still couldn't stand to read your bigheaded garble.

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