Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges insists she has no advantage over her rivals in women’s races – and says she has the data to back that up. She also says that transgender athletes have become “the current punching bag” in the “culture war.”
The 21-year-old had been due to make her debut in a women’s event at the National Omnium Championships in Derby in March, where she would have lined up alongside the likes of former world and Olympic champion in the discipline, Dame Laura Kenny.
While her testosterone levels had dropped sufficiently to allow her to comply with British Cycling’s Transgender and Non-Binary Participation Policy, allowing her to compete in women’s events, the UCI blocked her participation at the last minute.
British Cycling has also subsequently suspended its policy for a year, and a letter signed by more than 70 people involved in women’s cycling, including
The head of Great Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic programme, called on the UCI to tighten its rules on allowing transgender cyclists to compete in women’s events.
In an interview in the forthcoming issue of DIVA, the magazine for LGBTQI women and non-binary people, published to coincide with June’s Pride Month, Bridges responded to those who maintain that transgender women have an unfair advantage over biological females.
#DIVAEXCLUSIVE 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ In our #Pride issue DIVA publisher @LindaRiley8 interviews our inspiring cover ⭐️, cyclist Emily Bridges, about trans inclusion in sport, her coming out journey and being banned from the British National Omnium Championships
Pre-order: https://t.co/nWZf3vewrB pic.twitter.com/NcqmYyOirl
— DIVA Magazine (@DIVAmagazine) May 20, 2022
“I understand how you'd come to this conclusion because a lot of people still view trans women as men with male anatomies and physiologies,” she said.
“But hormone replacement therapy has such a massive effect. The aerobic performance difference is gone after about four months.
“There are studies going on for trans women in sport. I'm doing one and the performance drop-off that I’ve seen is massive. I don't have any advantage over my competitors and I've got data to back that up.”
Speaking about wider issues transgender people face, she said: “We're the current punching bag populist movements like to go for. We are, at the moment, who the culture war is against.
“There needs to be more positive voices and more education. People are constructing opinions off not the whole story.
“The more studies that are done, the more concrete evidence there will be.
“Sport acts as a microcosm to the rest of society, so with the patriarchal structure that exists in the rest of society, that's intensified in sport.”
Bridges, selected to participate in British Cycling’s senior academy in 2019, is a former junior men’s record holder in the 25 mile time trial and in February won her final race in a male event at the BUCS track championships.
Speaking about her participation in men’s races before she qualified to ride women’s events under British Cycling’s policy in force at the time, she said: “I could have just not ridden, which probably would have been somewhat better for my mental health and for affirming my identity. “
I don't know if it's the right decision or not, but that’s what I did.”
Speaking of her exclusion from the National Omnium Championships, she said: “Everything was kicking off saying, ‘Oh, she's gonna race and she’s gonna beat Laura Kenny’.
“I don’t know why they're thinking that. I wasn’t doing that well.
“It’s like they automatically think I’m gonna beat a multiple Olympic champion, just because I’m trans.
“We knew it would create more uproar in the media and it blew everything up even more.”
She also revealed that she had deleted her social media accounts for two weeks, telling DIVA: “It’s been a struggle. I’ve been trying to take each day by day, get through the day and get to the other side, because there's been some pretty dark times.
“There’s so much hate and criticism that I just don't look at it. I know it is happening and I try to have that drive me, but that's easier said than done."
“I want to make the world a better place,” added Bridges, who came out as transgender in 2020.
“I want to inspire people and help people through their journey to be who they are, and try to act as a bit of a role model.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.