Emily Bridges needs to face biological reality

Banning men from women's cycling is not a human-rights violation.

Lauren Smith

Topics Identity Politics Sport UK

Apparently, letting women have their own sports is a human-rights violation. At least that’s the view of trans activist and cyclist Emily Bridges.

In an interview with ITV this week, Bridges announced that he is planning to take sporting body British Cycling to the European Court of Human Rights because it will not allow him to compete in women’s events.

According to rules brought in by British Cycling last year, only athletes who were born female are permitted to enter women’s races. In drawing these up, it cited numerous studies demonstrating the vast differences in strength, size and stamina between men and women. It would be impossible to maintain fair competitions for women, British Cycling concluded, if male-born transwomen could freely enter them.

Most right-thinking people would see this as fair enough. Indeed, plenty of other sporting associations have made similar moves to protect women’s sports, both in the UK and internationally. British Cycling updated its policy following changes by World Athletics and World Aquatics.

Yet Bridges seems to view these changes as an attack on him personally and on trans people more broadly. When the rules first emerged last year, he accused British Cycling of encouraging a ‘genocide’ against trans people.

Speaking this week, he said: ‘Elite sport is over for me. I can’t compete… I can’t do something I used to love.’ But this is not strictly true. Bridges is more than welcome to compete in the newly created ‘open’ category, as is any cyclist regardless of how they identify. It is only the women’s category that he cannot enter, for the very simple reason that he is not a woman.

Bridges seems to be under the impression that he is biologically indistinguishable from his female counterparts. This is despite the fact that he is 6’2” and has been through male puberty. He will have longer limbs, bigger lungs, broader shoulders and more muscle mass than virtually every one of his female competitors. Not even hormone suppression can reverse these unfair advantages.

Back in 2018, when he was still identifying as a man, Bridges held a junior men’s record, having cycled 25 miles in just over 47 minutes. That’s two minutes faster than the current national record for adult women. In a sport like cycling that has such tight margins, this difference is hugely significant.

Nevertheless, he claims that ‘very clear data’ will ‘soon come out’ proving that transwomen have no biological advantage over actual women. I suspect we will all be waiting a long time for this to emerge.

According to Bridges, British Cycling’s decision to base sporting rules on biological facts is part of some bigoted, transphobic agenda. It is supposedly akin to ‘normalising the exclusion of trans people from public life’. Apparently, it makes it ‘easier to ban us from toilets, easier to ban our healthcare… and our ability to go out in public’. Again, what he is really upset about is being excluded from women’s spaces, toilets and sports – not from ‘public life’ as a whole.

Strikingly, Bridges even says it is ‘not safe’ for him to compete in any category other than the women’s. Tellingly, no thought is spared for the women who might feel excluded, unsafe or simply hard done by thanks to the presence of men in their sporting categories. This is why so many female athletes are now deciding to boycott events that allow transwomen to compete.

Emily Bridges needs to calm down. No one is banning trans athletes from sports. Transwomen are free to compete in ‘open’ categories or to return to competing against members of their own sex. Women should not have to lose their right to fair competition just to accommodate a tiny minority of trans people.

It’s not a human-rights violation to uphold fairness in sports. And it’s not bigoted to want women’s sports to be for women. The sooner Emily Bridges realises this, the better it will be for everyone.

Lauren Smith is a staff writer at spiked.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Identity Politics Sport UK


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