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Emily Bridges accuses Rishi Sunak of “normalising violence against trans people”, as she prepares for British Cycling legal challenge

Bridges claims British Cycling’s decision to ban transgender women from female events “violated” her human rights, but conceded that “elite sport is over for me”

Emily Bridges, the transgender cyclist whose controversial participation in female events prompted British Cycling to review and update its transgender and non-binary participation policies, has confirmed that she will continue to challenge the governing body’s decision – despite conceding that “elite sport is over for me”.

In a wide-ranging interview with ITV which aired last night, Bridges claimed that British Cycling’s creation of an ‘Open’ category for races and events to run alongside the pre-existing female classification has effectively amounted to a ban for transgender women, as well as constituting a “violation” of her human rights.

She also criticised the recent comments made by Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister’s Questions, which attacked Labour leader Keir Starmer’s “definition of a woman” and which were made while the mother of murdered trans teen Brianna Ghey was attending parliament, with Bridges arguing that by “trying to win a political game” Sunak was “normalising violence against trans people”.

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

In May 2023, 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 Championships in April 2022 and following a nine-month review, British Cycling announced its decision to introduce a new ‘Open’ category for competitive events, consolidating the existing men’s grouping and running alongside the female category, which is restricted to those born biologically female.

British Cycling CEO John Dutton said at the time that the updated policy would “both safeguard the fairness of cycle sport competition, whilst ensuring all riders have opportunities to participate”.

However, Bridges – whose exclusion from the Omnium Championships catapulted her into the spotlight and made her one of the world’s most high-profile trans athletes – accused the governing body of “furthering a genocide” against transgender people, while her mother, Sandy Sullivan, later confirmed to road.cc that a legal challenge to the policy was being prepared.

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

And this week, while speaking to ITV, Bridges says she is prepared to take the case to the European Court for Human Rights – despite acknowledging that her own days of competing at an elite level are almost certainly over.

“It’s not something I allow myself to think about too much because that part of my life is gone now, and it’s not something I really want to do anymore,” she told ITV News.

“If we were allowed to compete, if I was allowed to compete, it would be a different conversation, but I can’t compete… I can’t do something I used to love.”

Agreeing with the interviewer that her human rights had been “violated” by British Cycling’s policy update, she continued: “I don't care if I never compete again. It’s for other people who want to compete and it’s just about what’s right.”

Bridges also disagreed with British Cycling’s assertion that trans women are still free to compete in the new open category, insisting that a “ban is a ban”.

“You can say you can compete in the open category, but we’re women, we should be able to race in the women’s category,” she said.

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

Bridges added that she would not feel safe racing alongside men and that she was uncomfortable with the thought of trans women being “forced” to out themselves in order to compete in the open category.

“Obviously I have a past in cycling, I have previous results and people know me,” she said.

“But for another trans woman who hasn’t competed in the past, she’s trans but is seen by the world as a cis woman, how is it fair to ask her to out herself and compete in the open category? That’s not fair and it’s not safe either.”

The British cyclist, who has participated in research at Loughborough University to assess the fairness of current trans participation policies, also disputes the peer-reviewed studies cited by British Cycling which claim that trans women who have suppressed testosterone retain a competitive advantage compared to cis women after puberty.

“How many of those studies are done on athletes?” she asked. “I have been part of a study, and the data will be coming out soon, and opponents of my inclusion, have been trying to discredit all of the data.”

In a statement, British Cycling said: “Our revised policies have been designed to safeguard the fairness of cycle-sport competition, while continuing to ensure that all riders have access to welcoming and inclusive opportunities to participate."

“We remain fully committed to listening to our communities and working with other sporting bodies to monitor changes in the scientific and policy landscapes, and will be reviewing our policies annually or more frequently if required.”

> Emily Bridges says Boris Johnson’s comments on transgender athletes led to threats of physical violence against her

Meanwhile, beyond the world of cycling and sport, Bridges also took aim at Rishi Sunak, after the prime minister was roundly criticised for a jibe directed at Keir Starmer during PMQs, which called into question the opposition leader’s stance on the “definition of a woman”. Sunak refused to apologise for the remarks, which were made while murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey’s mother was attending parliament and just a week after two teenagers were sentenced for killing her.

“It normalises violence against trans people,” Bridges said of Sunak’s PMQs remark. “At the end of the day, that is the impact. In court the judge presiding over the trial of Brianna’s murderers has said that transphobia was a factor, that transphobia is directly linked to the normalisation of these comments and, and the media pushing, pushing these debates and everything.

“And it's just like, people are getting killed – we are still getting killed and it's an incredibly scary time to be trans at the moment. If you leave the house and you’re thinking, ‘I’m not going to come home, because someone doesn’t like who I am’, and that's a very real conversation that we’re having.

“It’s not safe anymore, but it’s never been particularly safe, but it has gotten worse. [Sunak] is not thinking about it at all. He’s just trying to win a political game. There’s no thought at all.”

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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49 comments

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eburtthebike | 4 months ago
8 likes

Rather OT, but so batshit crazy that I had to share: Liz Truss, at a meeting in the USA, said that the reason she couldn't get her policies through was that the civil service was infested with trans activists.

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Hirsute replied to eburtthebike | 4 months ago
7 likes

I expect they don't like pork or cheese.

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Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
3 likes

I completely get her point about not competing. Because now, he's exactly what he always was - a low level men's rider, who had the biological advantage to win in the women competitions. But now the playing field has been levelled again, they all of a sudden cant win, and its everyone else's fault. 

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quiff replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
4 likes

Hedging your bets with all the pronouns there

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chrisonabike replied to quiff | 4 months ago
4 likes

They is!  I suspect (s)he is sending people up - that's what it seems to be doing at least.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to quiff | 4 months ago
0 likes

quiff wrote:

Hedging your bets with all the pronouns there

Sorry I get a bit confused nowadays. 

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john_smith replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
4 likes

Why not use "she" if that's how she sees herself and it's what she wants to be called? What would it cost you to do so? What do you stand to lose?

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to john_smith | 4 months ago
1 like

john_smith wrote:

What do you stand to lose?

My beliefs

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ROOTminus1 replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
1 like
Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

john_smith wrote:

What do you stand to lose?

My beliefs

And all it cost was your integrity, decency, and the last dregs of your basic humanity

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john_smith replied to ROOTminus1 | 4 months ago
3 likes

Along with his dignity, reputation and fortune. And his wife has left him and the cat refuses to look at him.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to ROOTminus1 | 4 months ago
0 likes

ROOTminus1 wrote:
Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

john_smith wrote:

What do you stand to lose?

My beliefs

And all it cost was your integrity, decency, and the last dregs of your basic humanity

That's fine, beliefs aren't beliefs if you don't stand by them. 

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chrisonabike replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
1 like

Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

john_smith wrote:

What do you stand to lose?

My beliefs

Oh - I shouldn't worry.  It's not only hard to lose them but should the worst happen you may find it's very easy to acquire a new set.  In fact - just try keeping them away!  And quite likely you'll quickly find you're just as devoted to the new ones, if not more so.

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perce replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
2 likes

Isn't one of your beliefs that it's ok to marry a milk bottle? I seem to remember you saying that.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to perce | 4 months ago
0 likes

perce wrote:

Isn't one of your beliefs that it's ok to marry a milk bottle? I seem to remember you saying that.

Possibly, you should ask Rendel because he screenshots all my comments and then claims he has a photographic memory.

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marmotte27 | 4 months ago
0 likes

As I've said on here before, competition depends on categories, regardless of the field you're looking at. You can't have competition if you don't have boundaries; sex, age, clubs, nations, classes, you name it. Some of these are more, some less artificial, but as far as competition is concerned, that doesn't matter.

Do away with this idea of boundaries - and the idea of fluid genders instead of determined sexes as a category is quite a breach in them - and ultimately you do away with competition.
Which wouldn't be a bad thing in my book.

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massive4x4 | 5 months ago
6 likes

To put it into context if we look at the Croggan charts of cycling power.

The GOAT woman on FTP/kg would be beaten by a mid/low level male domestic pro and the GOAT sprinter would be beaten by a Cat 1 male rider on 5s w/kg.

I'd make an argument that most men if sufficiently motivated could get to Cat 1 levels without any genetic advantage.

If we look at the advantages of doping as a proxy for the impacts of hormone treatment (in the other direction) it's pretty clear that while doping gets you a winning margin against other elite athletes it doesn't make a champion out of a journeyman. At most we are looking at low single digit % improvements or in this case detriments.

So in short the pool of male competitors that would be dominant in women's cycling is massive even with "negative doping". Most cycling clubs in cities have at least a few riders who are at this sort of level.

This is partially evidenced by the fact that the majority of trans women who competed in women's events placed very highly and or won.

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Mr Hoopdriver replied to massive4x4 | 4 months ago
2 likes

I have an indoor rowing machine.  I am not very good at rowing.  I usually do 'good' beginner efforts for my age group.  I wanted to do better and went off to see how I compared with other rowers of my age.  I'm between novice and intermediate on the men's scale.  What shocked me though was that my times put me in the Elite women's group of my age.  Novice/Intermediate female rowers 30 years younger than me are turning in the same time as me.

https://marathonhandbook.com/good-2k-row-time/

If I am typical, there is no way you should be allowing trans men -> women to compete against women - it's just not really fair.

I don't like this separation, I think trans people have a really hard time and lot of courage to be open and honest about how they feel and I don't know what the answer is.  We could have a third gender category to cater for them but I think that would end up with the men->women trans always dominating so we'd probably end up with two separate categories.

It's horrible really, whichever way you look at it.

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D.Railleur | 5 months ago
2 likes

The problem with the trans "issue" is that everyone thinks it's something new, in a whatever next kind of way. What is the world coming to? Etc, etc. Trans women have been competing alongside and with other women in the women's category for many many years without any problems or "domination". Quite the opposite in fact. Just blending in enjoying their sport. Recently the rightwing press have cooked up a storm over a few high profile trans women who had previously competed in the male category. A media frenzy followed with the intentional, resulting stirring up of hatred based initially on the fairness issue then moving onto trans women are just bad people who want to either "cheat" in events or do some harm to other women. When the Tory politicians waded in with their " it's just common sense", well that opened the floodgates for all the haters to let the world know what sort of people they are. Now trans women are being murdered just for existing. The recent British Cycling and CTT policy changes are based solely on a reaction to the hatred. The British Cycling system is designed to out any trans woman who registers to race by declaring their eligibility as "open". Publically available on their website. In the current climate no trans woman would register with BC, it would be like saying to all the haters and would be murderers, here I am. It's my view though, that BC and CTT don't give a hoot about fairness for women. Not a hoot. The real purpose of the open category isn't to create fairness for women, it is to make sure that fewer women's races will take place and eventually at grass roots level, everyone will compete in the open category. The trans "issue" has been used as a vehicle to drive the sport towards single category racing to save money, which is what the governing  bodies have wanted for years. Watch this space over the next few seasons. Watch the number of women only races dwindle down to zero. Anyone can race in the open category. Think about that from a race orgagiser's point of view.
 

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FionaJJ | 5 months ago
17 likes

Using someone's prefered name and pronouns is basic decency IMO. Granted, sometimes I forget or there's a reason to refer to their former name, much as including a married woman's maiden name is helpful. 

But  I really struggle with the idea that trans women have no advantage over cis women, or that cis women questioning the fairness are evil transphobes. Some think cis women should just suck it up, and that sport gives some people natural advantages over others, is at least more honest, but not satisfactory for elite competitive sport. Most arguments in the name of inclusion are arguments against having separate women's categories altogether, which is not progress.

There may be some sports in which the advantages of undergoing male puberty are genuinely negligible, but I don't consider cycling to be one of them. We could do all kinds of tests which will be quoted and misquoted by people don't understand them, including myself. But if trans women have no advantage over cis women in a particular sport, you'd expect to see trans men competing successfully alongside cis men with equivalent success. 

I understand the 'we're fed up of waiting our turn' view from minority groups who have been, and continue to be victims of prejudice, but I don't see this kind of legal challenge as helpful for most trans people who just want to live their lives in peace.

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open_roads replied to FionaJJ | 5 months ago
4 likes

I agree with almost everything you've said apart from the practicality of using preferred pronouns when those chosen are completely confusing.

Having now worked and interacted socially with a couple of people who identify as "they" it's completely confusing to the point of derailing all sorts of discussions that would otherwise be straight forward.

 

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ROOTminus1 replied to open_roads | 5 months ago
8 likes

Do you know more than a handful of women who have gotten married in the time you've known them?
Odds are at least one changed their surname, was it so "completely confusing" to refer to them by their new titles and surnames?

It's not hard. Everyone will forgive an honest mistake or two, but if you persist in deadnaming/ misgendering someone they are going to get pissed off, and that's on you.

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chrisonabike replied to ROOTminus1 | 5 months ago
5 likes

Good point, there's nothing at all confusing or status-reducing about the naming conventions history has foisted on women, is there (like "Mrs." plus her husband's forename AND surname)?

It's another "we all know exactly what we're talking about - although actually there are quite a lot of exceptions".  We're also happy with men (or women) changing their names according to status (Mr. Smith / Lord Blah) and even using different ones on different occasions.  And office, if e.g. you're a bishop / archbishop.

I also find myself stumbling over the odd "they" and it does add some cognitive load - but a) I just don't get enough practice and b) I'm not young.  So it's a me problem - culture changes; this fashion is AFAICS neither better or worse just different.

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Sriracha replied to chrisonabike | 5 months ago
2 likes

Addressing Lord Blah as Mr Smith is a device employed by those who disagree with the honours system and therefore don't want to be co-opted into recognising any status it confers. But it wouldn't indicate hatred of the person.

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Rendel Harris replied to Sriracha | 4 months ago
6 likes

Sriracha wrote:

Addressing Lord Blah as Mr Smith is a device employed by those who disagree with the honours system and therefore don't want to be co-opted into recognising any status it confers.

But there are good reasons for disagreeing with the honours system, I can't really see a good reason, leaving aside all questions of shared changing rooms, participation in sport, et cetera et cetera, to disagree with someone's desire to be called by a different name/honorific. One may or may not disagree with some of the demands of transgender people for recognition, but that one seems to me one that does no harm, real or perceived, to anyone.

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Paul J replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
2 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

But there are good reasons for disagreeing with the honours system, I can't really see a good reason, leaving aside all questions of shared changing rooms, participation in sport, et cetera et cetera, to disagree with someone's desire to be called by a different name/honorific. One may or may not disagree with some of the demands of transgender people for recognition, but that one seems to me one that does no harm, real or perceived, to anyone.

My instinct was to hold that same view. And I long did. And I use the desired names/pronouns when in company of the subject and any others who wish that (so, generally, pretty much).

The counter-argument I had heard was the "slippery slope" one - if you engage in the fiction (and, at a physiological it most certainly is) that a TIM /is/ a women at one level by using female pronouns and names, you open the door to all the other levels. That seemed like exaggeration to me in the past. However, looking at what has happened since, with Lia Thomas and Emily Bridges, there clearly is something to that argument.

My position now is that I will still use pronouns/names as desired. However, I will not go along with the fiction that "transwomen are women". That line I have to disagree with. It is physiologically untrue, and it must be pushed back against. In many cases in civil society the distinction does not matter, and we can treat TIMs accordingly without issue. But in some cases it does (women's prisons, sport, etc. - anywhere where the large difference in strength/power between male and female population distributions can matter).

And we /must/ be able to state this truth publicly without fear.

I suspect this is roughly the position of most people in society.

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Sriracha replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:

Sriracha wrote:

Addressing Lord Blah as Mr Smith is a device employed by those who disagree with the honours system and therefore don't want to be co-opted into recognising any status it confers.

But there are good reasons for disagreeing with the honours system, I can't really see a good reason, leaving aside all questions of shared changing rooms, participation in sport, et cetera et cetera, to disagree with someone's desire to be called by a different name/honorific. One may or may not disagree with some of the demands of transgender people for recognition, but that one seems to me one that does no harm, real or perceived, to anyone.

Whether Rendel Harris agrees with one or other position is not the issue. It merely illustrates one person's view, it is not the arbiter of truth. The issue is that in both cases people have the right to disagree. And that disagreement is made manifest in the use of language, necessarily so because both issues make their own demands upon the language people use. You can disagree with someone without hating them.

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chrisonabike replied to Sriracha | 4 months ago
0 likes

Sriracha wrote:

Whether Rendel Harris agrees with one or other position is not the issue. It merely illustrates one person's view, it is not the arbiter of truth. The issue is that in both cases people have the right to disagree. And that disagreement is made manifest in the use of language, necessarily so because both issues make their own demands upon the language people use. You can disagree with someone without hating them.

The problem with this issue though is that it's a disagreement about entity or attributes - it is (for one side at least) inherently personal being literally about their identity.  Presumably people affected feel it's like saying "Hi, I'm Chris" and getting the reply "No you're not, you're Stupid (or insert any designation which makes you feel uncomfy here).  I'm not calling you Chris, Stupid, don't be ridiculous etc."

And for some on the other side presumably the interaction comes across as "you thought you understood reality, but I'm saying it's completely different.  You have to play along with my special take on things.  And if you don't sign up to that you're hateful, an oppressor etc".

So - unless you somehow swerve the issue (or just don't know encounter people for whom this is one - and they are still rare) I'm not sure there is a "fence-sitting" position.

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Rendel Harris replied to Sriracha | 4 months ago
1 like

Sriracha wrote:

Whether Rendel Harris agrees with one or other position is not the issue. It merely illustrates one person's view, it is not the arbiter of truth. The issue is that in both cases people have the right to disagree. And that disagreement is made manifest in the use of language, necessarily so because both issues make their own demands upon the language people use. You can disagree with someone without hating them.

My argument is why would you disagree on such a non-substantive point as what somebody chooses to call themselves? It literally does you or anybody else any harm whatsoever. As I said, of course there are legitimate concerns that need to be discussed about biological men getting into women-only spaces and competing in sports and other issues, but whether or not somebody decides to call themselves Christopher or Christine or Mr or Mrs or Miss or Ms just isn't important. People who refuse to respect a person's choice of name or pronoun aren't, in my opinion, advancing understanding or defending women's rights or anything else, they're just being unnecessarily belligerent and ill mannered.

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Sriracha replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

whether or not somebody decides to call themselves Christopher or Christine or Mr or Mrs or Miss or Ms just isn't important.

You're saying language doesn't matter. That's a very blinkered view. Control the language and you control the ideas. Remove the words and the argument goes away. It's a very effective strategy.

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Rendel Harris replied to Sriracha | 4 months ago
1 like

Sriracha wrote:

You're saying language doesn't matter. That's a very blinkered view. Control the language and you control the ideas. Remove the words and the argument goes away. It's a very effective strategy.

No, I'm not. As a professional writer I'm well aware of the power of words, however you appear to be saying that giving this one tiny concession of allowing somebody to choose their own pronouns and their own names if they wish would somehow represent a crack in the dam whereby all of the translobby's demands would have to be granted. I do not agree. If I choose, out of courtesy, to call somebody "they" instead of "he" because that makes them more comfortable, it does not automatically follow that I think Maro Itoje should be allowed to play women's rugby if he decided to identify as a woman (for legal reasons I should point out this is simply an example, I do not believe that Mr Itoje has any inclination so to do).

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