Emily Bridges, the transgender athlete who has recently become eligible to compete in women’s events after undergoing hormone suppression treatment, is set to go up against Dame Laura Kenny and a host of other top British talent in Derby this weekend.
Bridges, 21, has been included on the entry list for this Saturday’s National Omnium Championship at the Derby Arena. The list was published last week but went largely unnoticed over the weekend. Dame Laura Kenny, the five-time Olympic champion, is also on the entry list, as is Kenny’s Tokyo 2020 team mate Neah Evans, and Megan Barker, younger sister of Olympic champion Elinor Barker.
Due to the impact of Covid-19 the event hasn’t been held since October 2019. But there will be huge interest in this weekend’s racing if all the above names do turn up. The recent success of American swimmer Lia Thomas at the National Collegiate Athletic Association championships in the United States reignited the debate over male-to-female trans athletes. Specifically, whether they retain an unfair advantage over “biological females” even if they have undergone hormone suppression therapy. And if so, whether their human rights should trump the rights of female athletes to fair competition.
Last month, Bridges, who began hormone therapy last year, was part of the University of Nottingham men’s team who took bronze in the team pursuit at the British Universities’ Championships in Glasgow. The University of Nottingham Sport Twitter account has since deleted its post celebrating the result.
She now seemingly complies with British Cycling’s requirements to have had testosterone levels below 5nmol/L for at least 12 months.
But her inclusion in the start list will nevertheless be controversial with some. Sharron Davies, the former Olympic swimmer tweeted in reference to Bridges’ anticipated participation: “There must be a place in sport 4all but fairness must trump inclusion in the wrong category. The Q angle of the hip 2knee for example in cycling is a huge benefit to males. Male puberty remains.”
Telegraph Sport last week reported that Commonwealth Games chiefs have agreed on new rules which could pave the way for a trans woman to race for a female cycling medal.
Bridges – who set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles and was selected in 2019 onto British Cycling’s senior academy – has yet to confirm whether she wants to compete in Birmingham but recently told Cycling Weekly that she had always hoped to be able to compete against women.
“It was always the plan,” she said. “After starting hormone therapy, I didn’t want to race in the male category any more than I had to. It sucks, racing as a man when you’re not one. It was quickly apparent that that was the wrong category for me.”
Last year Bridges’ mother, Sandy, hit out at the “hysteria” surrounding her daughter, insisting that she just wanted to be treated fairly. “Emily is not in contravention of any of [the rules surrounding transgender people’s participation in elite sports] so please stop with the bulls**t,” she said.