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.
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.”
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.”
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 as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.