Who is Emily Bridges? Transgender cyclist criticises new rules
Bridges said the ruling left her unsure whether she wanted to race again
New cycling rules that set out a separate category for transgender and non-binary athletes have been condemned by trans cyclist Emily Bridges as a "violent act" that has effectively "banned us from racing".
One of the highest profile transgender athletes in the UK, Bridges said the new "Open" category announced by British Cycling on Friday was a bid to make the organisation look better.
The new ruling, which will come into effect by the end of the year, will see "transgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals and those whose sex was assigned male at birth" be eligible for the ‘Open’ category. "The ‘Female’ category will remain in place for those whose sex was assigned female at birth and transgender men who are yet to begin hormone therapy," British Cycling said.
However, Bridges said that while a "nuanced policy discussion" and further research was needed, the current discussions were "inherently political" and had left her unsure whether she wanted to race her bike again.
"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," she wrote on her Instagram page.
The organisation's policy was reviewed after Bridges was prevented from competing in the National Omnium Championships last year, despite meeting testosterone requirements, in a decision British Cycling said was because the existing system was “unfair on all women riders and poses a challenge to the integrity of racing".
They carried out a nine-month review prior to revealing the new Open category, which it said "builds on our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy, Our Ride, and re-asserts our commitment to inclusion for trans and non-binary riders across our non-competitive activities".
"Research studies indicate that even with the suppression of testosterone, transgender women who transition post-puberty retain a performance advantage," said British Cycling.
"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.
"We recognise the impact the suspension of our policy has had on trans and non-binary people, and we are sorry for the uncertainty and upset that many have felt during this period."
Who is Emily Bridges?
Bridges is a cyclist who prior to transitioning set the national junior men's record over 25 miles before becoming a part of British Cycling’s Senior Academy in 2019.
She came out as transgender in 2020, saying in an Instagram post that she had "been hiding my true self for way too long, and it feels so incredible to be totally free".
Bridges said she began to fall back in love with the spirt while living as her authentic self.
“What sticks with me is how polarised the reactions were. There was a lot of positivity: lots of really nice messages from friends and people I’d never met, mostly female cyclists, offering their support,” Bridges said.
“That support was important because there was also a lot of backlash – the initial hate threads from anti-trans groups, which got a lot of interaction and attention online, followed by a steady trickle of hostile posts speculating about my racing intentions and insinuating that I would have an unfair advantage.”
In an interview with Cycling Weekly in March 2022 that she felt the casual homophobia in the industry meant she could not be her true self with teammates.
Later that month, Bridges was banned from competing in the first race she had entered since transitioning, the British National Omnium Championship, despite having reduced her testosterone level to the requested limit to compete.
The decision was criticised by LGBT+ charities, while Bridges' mother Sandy Sullivan said that Bridges had been "dumped by email" by British Cycling, who said they were reviewing their policy on transgender competitors.
At the time, Bridges said she had been left "harassed and demonised" after the decision, to review the policy, by people who had suggested she would have an unfair advantage.
She has since been awaiting the decision by British Cycling, which was released on 26 May and was met with widespread disappointment by the trans community.