Emily Bridges – the elite British cyclist who is trans and is fighting to compete in the women’s category – told her story in an interview with ITV News on Tuesday, following months of controversy over her status in elite cycling.
In the 20-Minute TV interview with ITV sportscaster Steve Scott, Bridges squarely responded to her critics who said transgender women should not be allowed to compete in events alongside cisgender women.
She has made a pointed statement about the abuse she has suffered since announcing her transition, and how that targeting intensified after Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose government left transgender people unprotected against conversion therapy, said in an on-camera interview, “I don’t think ‘biological males’ should compete in women’s sporting events.
“The response after that was as expected, I received threats of physical violence against me from complete strangers online,” Bridges said in the interview. “I’m often scared of being who I am in public. Will anyone recognize me? Those were real worries and it was a real fear I had after the comments were made. , and it was scary. I was scared.”
She also pushed Johnson directly, just a day after the embattled prime minister survived a vote of no confidence from Conservative Party MPs.
“It’s really strange to see probably the most famous man in Britain talking about you and having an opinion about something he knows nothing about,” she said.
Bridges also discussed the main contention of many UK mass media and the internet: issues at the intersections of regulation, inclusion and fairness. These issues were front and center when the Union Cycliste Internationale and British Cycling suspended her participation in the UK National Omnium Championships in April, just weeks after she was confirmed eligible to compete under the permanent rules of the UCI and British cycling.
The championships were to be her first women’s event and an opportunity to qualify to represent her native Wales at the Commonwealth Games later this year. She expressed frustration with the way the situation was handled and the lack of communication about a possible revised policy that has yet to be announced.
According to Bridges, British Cycling had told her by email that it would be involved in the development of a revised policy, but she said in the interview that she had heard no more from the governing body.
“It’s untenable,” she fumed. “There are several athletes in the UK who just don’t know what to do because there is no policy. We don’t know what we are working towards. It’s a total void.
“It doesn’t affect me, it affects other people. It’s so unfair not to have anything.
The word “equitable” was a theme throughout the interview. The claim that Bridges is in a female-only area is “unfair” has been discussed many times. In response, she noted the data and analysis gathered by her and further analyzed as part of an extensive research study on transgender people and sports performance conducted by Loundsborough University.
Bridges was questioned and responded to accusations in some corners that the tests on her were set up to achieve a certain result.
“They obviously have never seen an elite athlete who makes the most of themselves,” she disputed. “I would invite them to come and watch me do the research, watch them physically open me up and take muscle from me to store it and watch under the microscope to investigate the changes, to watch me take a VO2 max test to see at how far I go.”
Since the interview, opinions have soared in the UK press and across social media, particularly following a weekend where Bridges took part in a ThunderCrit event in London where divisions are inclusive. The performance measures of cisgender men and women are used to define the divisions. Bridges won a “lightning split” event where eligibility was based on all runners who came closest to cis women’s performance (including cis women themselves).
News outlets, such as the always anti-trans Daily Mail, made Bridges’ victory an issue. One of the most prominent anti-inclusion voices cited by the newspaper was three-time British Olympian, 1980 Olympic swimming medalist and former BBC sports presenter Sharron Davies, who told the Daily Mail and on their own social media that Bridges is “not a woman”.
It happened after the newspaper reprimanded the event Bridges won, then was harshly reprimanded by race organizers.
They also got one from the contestant who finished third.
Jo Smith, a cisgender woman whom the Daily Mail has defended as a competitor who has been “beaten” by transgender women, cheered on those who attacked Bridges and runner-up Lilly Chant.
To everyone who messaged me about my podium at Thundercrit yesterday, thank you for your concern, but I’m thrilled with my podium, super proud to be part of the team that puts on such an inclusive and exciting event, and proud to race with such great competitors.
—Jo Smith (@jo7smith) June 4, 2022
For everyone who cares so deeply about the future of women’s cycling, please direct your energy towards lobbying for better TV coverage, better pay and racing opportunities in the women’s pro peloton, rather than gender-neutral racing. . 2/2
—Jo Smith (@jo7smith) June 4, 2022
Bridges also had an answer in the interview. In a sense, it was an olive branch.
“I understand why you feel potentially threatened by my inclusion,” she said. You might feel like the patriarchal structures that govern cycling and society in general. It’s another thing that’s forced on you and it’s another thing that you have to fight against.
“But those same structures, those same attitudes are the same things that pushed me down, pushed me into the closet, that I couldn’t be myself. So I would ask if you can sympathize with me, because I can sympathize with you? »