Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges has launched a scathing attack on British Cycling, calling it a "failed organisation" and raised concerns that trans women have been "banned" from participating on the same day that the governing body announced a new transgender policy that will see the introduction of a new 'Open' category for all transgender and non-binary individuals in competitive events.
British Cycling announced today morning the introduction of a new 'Open' category alongside the women's category. This means that the current men's category will be consolidated into the Open category, with the female category only open to "those whose sex was assigned female at birth and transgender men who are yet to begin hormone therapy". This will only apply in competition.
However, Bridges released a prior statement in response on her Instagram, saying she was "done with this whole conversation being on their terms, and being controlled by them."
"British Cycling has just banned us from racing," read her post. "They have no authority to control this conversation anymore. Does it surprise me that the same organisation funded directly by a state that ships vulnerable refugees to Rwanda, violently clamps down on any political dissent that they disapprove of, or starves their people? No, of course, it doesn't."
"The same organisation with actively homophobic coaches, who encouraged eating disorders and did nothing about any bullying between its riders. The same organisation where elite riders influence their policy when it doesn't fit their entitled and narrow worldview, with no ability for nuance or any desire to question the view that they've been told since birth."
She continued: "British Cycling is a failed organisation, the racing scene is dying under your watch and all you do is take money from petrochemical companies and engage in culture wars. You don't care about making sport more diverse, you want to make yourself look better and you're even failing at that. Cycling is still one of the whitest, straightest sports out there, and you couldn't care less."
"This is a violent act," she said. "British Cycling are supporting this, they are furthering a genocide against us. Bans from sport is how it starts, look at what is going on in America. It starts with sports bans, then youth and general healthcare and then bans from public life through bathroom bans. Just look at the situation, and who is on your side. When literal Nazis, conspiracy theorists and those who want our eradication are on your side, surely that should give you pause?"
Bridges had been cleared by British Cycling for racing at the National Omnium Championships last year in April her testosterone levels were sufficiently, but then suddenly the organisation made a U-turn on its decision and suspended its transgender policy with immediate effect. It said that the system was “unfair on all women riders and poses a challenge to the integrity of racing,” and thus a nine-month review was initiated.
Today, the national governing body has announced two new policies — one for competitive activity and another for non-competitive activity. For the latter, British Cycling says that it will not discriminate based on gender and allow riders to participate in the category they identify as.
However for competitive activity, it introduced the new Open category, alongside the Male and Female categories. All transgender and non-binary individuals (except those whose sex was assigned female at birth) can now only compete only in the Open category.
Existing Race Licences held by transgender women will continue to be valid until the new policy comes into force. British Cycling said that it is working closely with these individuals to support their continued participation in events following the change in policy.
British Cycling apologised to all transgender and non-binary for the "uncertainty and upset" that they felt due to its actions.
"Our aim in creating our policies has always been to advance and promote equality, diversity and inclusion, while at the same time prioritising fairness of competition. This aim has not changed: it has been central to our review and we remain committed to this vital work," said British Cycling.
British Cycling CEO, Jon Dutton, said: "Our new policies are the product of a robust nine-month review process which we know will have a very real-world impact for our community both now and in the future. We understand that this will be particularly difficult for many of our trans and non-binary riders, and our commitment to them today is twofold.
"First, we will continue to assess our policy annually and more frequently as the medical science develops, and will continue to invite those impacted to be an integral part of those conversations. Second, we will also continue to ensure that our non-competitive activities provide a positive and welcoming environment, where everyone can feel like they belong and are respected in our community, and take action to eradicate discrimination from the sport.
"I am confident that we have developed policies that both safeguard the fairness of cyclesport competition, whilst ensuring all riders have opportunities to participate."
British Cycling also asserted that a full medical science review, followed by an assessment of the practical changes and support needed to ensure the policy’s successful implementation was conducted, alongside a targeted consultation consisiting of 14 focus groups.
However, Bridges argued that while she agreed that there needs to be a nuanced policy discussion and continue to conduct research, it hadn't happened. "Research isn't being viewed critically, or any discussion about the relevance of the data to specific sports. Any discussion is inherently political and driven by bad faith actors, and the whole discussion is framed by the media who are driven through engagement by hate and funding from far-right ultra capitalists," she said.
Bridges also added that for the last two years, she has "given up her body for science", and that "new, actual and relevant" data will be coming out soon.
There is no science that supports any decision to ban. BC know that, as do others including World Governing bodies. These decisions ARE purely motivated by politics, purely and simply.
— Sandy 💜💙❤ 🏳️🌈 Ally She/Her (@sullivansa1) May 26, 2023
In April last year, Emily Bridges' mother commented on British Cycling's treatment of her daughter, simply saying "dumped by email", after the national governing body's decision to suspend its transgender policy.
UK's largest network of LGBTQIA+ cyclists PRiDE OUT had also accused the body of "bending to political pressure and cowing to the transphobic gender-critical movement".
Bridges finished her Instagram post: "It terrifies me to exist at the moment, I have friends getting hate crimed all the time, and my reality is that I can't look ahead to the future or make plans because I don't know if I'll be allowed to live that long.
"Do you have any idea what that does to someone psychologically? To constantly see your existence being put up for debate, and the other side openly calling for our eradication? I don't even know if I want to race my bike any more, the danger and everything that would come with racing makes it a pretty hard thing to justify to myself. But you have no right on telling me when I am done. This is my decision and mine alone."
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after completing his masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He also covers local and national politics for Voice Wales, and sometimes writes about science, tech and the environment. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him riding his bike on the scenic routes, fighting his urge to stop pedalling and click photographs (apparently not because he's bonking).