Sport

Trans cyclist Emily Bridges received onslaught of ‘scary’ abuse after Boris Johnson comments

Lily Wakefield June 8, 2022
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Emily Bridges

Emily Bridges received violent threats after Boris Johnson made comments about excluding trans athletes from sport. (ITV News)

Trans cyclist Emily Bridges has spoken out about the “scary” threats she received after Boris Johnson’s ill-informed comments on trans inclusion in sport.

Bridges, 21, came out publicly as a trans woman in October 2020. She raced against men in 2021 as British Cycling’s policy stipulated that trans women must meet a certain testosterone level for at least 12 months before they can compete in a female race category. It means Bridges was only able to complete in a women’s event for the first time this year.

But just three days before her first race where she would be able to compete as her true self, the British National Omnium Championships, British Cycling said in a vague announcement that the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) – the sport’s world governing body – had ruled that she could not compete “under their current guidelines”.

A week later, prime minister Boris Johnson waded into the debate on trans inclusion in sport during a Sky News interview.

“I don’t think biological males should be competing in female sporting events,” he said. “Maybe that’s a controversial thing to say, but it just seems to me to be sensible.”

Emily Bridges, who had already faced immense backlash in the media and online, said Johnson’s comments simply made things worse.

“It’s really strange to see probably the most famous man in Britain talking about you and having an opinion on something that he doesn’t know anything about,” she told ITV News.

“The response after that was as expected, I had threats of physical violence made against me by complete strangers online.

“People are entitled to hold an opinion about it, but there’s a way to go about voicing that opinion – and threatening to kneecap me is not that way.”

Bridges said she is fearful of being herself in public, and added: “Is someone going to recognise me? They were real concerns and it was a real fear that I had after the comments were made, and it was scary. I was scared.”

British Cycling would go on to suspend its trans and non-binary participation policy with immediate effect on 8 April, promising a “full review” in the coming weeks.

Emily Bridges calls for ’empathy’ between cis and trans women athletes, because the patriarchy represses everyone

The young cyclist is determined to “make cycling and sport a more welcoming place”, and to “make things better for the people that come after me”.

In a message to those who believe trans athletes are trying to “steal” spots from cisgender women, Emily Bridges said: “I haven’t taken anything. I haven’t been considered for any teams or squads or races or anything.

“And when the time comes that I am selected, or put in a pool for selection, I will compete with other athletes as they do, as they compete with their fellow athletes, for spots.

“Only a certain number of people can be selected. I don’t want special treatment from anyone, I just want the same opportunities as my fellow female athletes.”

Bridges said she “empathises” with the fears that are brought up in the discussion around trans inclusion in sport, and added: “I empathise with why you feel potentially threatened by my inclusion; you might feel like the patriarchal structures that govern cycling and society in general, it’s another thing that’s being pushed on you and it’s another thing you’ve got 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 empathise with me, because I can empathise with you? I don’t know if this will change anybody’s mind but that’s my message I give you.”

More: Boris Johnson, british cycling, emily bridges, trans athletes, transphobia

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