Emily Bridges received threats of violence after PM made comments about trans rights in sports

Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges who won gold in ‘inclusive’ race reveals she was threatened with kneecapping after Boris Johnson said ‘biological males shouldn’t compete in women’s sports’ – and blasts the PM for ‘not knowing anything about’ the issue

Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges has launched a blistering attack on Prime Minister Boris JohnsonShe said his remarks that biological men should not compete in women’s sports sparked wave of abuseBridges told ITV News she was subjected to threats of physical violence including kneecappingThe athlete also accused the under-fire Tory leader of ‘not knowing anything about’ the trans issue 

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Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges has launched a blistering attack on Boris Johnson, claiming the Prime Minister’s remarks that ‘biological males shouldn’t compete in women’s sports’ were the catalyst for a wave of violent threats.

The 21-year-old Welsh athlete made headlines in March when she was barred from competing against Olympic hero Dame Laura Kenny in the British National Omnium Championships at the 11th hour by world governing body UCI.

The controversy sparked an explosive transgender debate outside the world of sport, prompting Mr Johnson to wade into the row by declaring that biological males should not be allowed to compete in female-only sports events. The Tory leader also said that parents should have ‘involvement at the very least’ in decision made by children to alter their gender.

Mr Johnson also said that women should have spaces in hospitals, prisons and changing rooms which were ‘dedicated to women’.

‘That’s as far as my thinking has developed on this issue. If that puts me in conflict with some others, then we have got to work it all out,’ he said. ‘That doesn’t mean that I’m not immensely sympathetic to people who want to change gender, to transition. It’s vital that we give people the maximum possible love and support in making those decisions.

‘But these are complex issues and I don’t think they can be solved with one swift, easy piece of legislation. It takes a lot of thought to get this right.’

During an interview with ITV News, Bridges excoriated the Prime Minister, claiming that his remarks sparked an avalanche of threats of physical violence including kneecapping. She also accused him of ‘not knowing anything about’ the issue.

‘It’s really strange to see, probably the most famous man in Britain, talking about you and having an opinion on something he doesn’t know anything about,’ she said. ‘The response after that was as expected. I had threats of physical violence made against me, and by complete strangers online, and I’m scared a lot of the time about being who I am in public.

‘People are always going to have an opinion about it. They’re 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.’ 

Emily Bridges suffered threats of ‘physical violence’ after the Prime Minister made his ‘controversial’ comments back in April.

Bridges, pictured here in August 2018 competing as a man, Zach, had set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles in the same year and competed as a man until earlier this year. Now known as Emily Bridges, she was going to race against women  including Laura Kenny in March but this was stopped at the 11th hour amid claims of a boycott

Emily Bridges won the race, followed by Lilly Chant and Jo Smith in third – but the photo has sparked backlash amongst gender critics on social media

Bridges had met British Cycling’s previous requirement – that riders in the female category have had testosterone levels below five nanomoles per litre for a 12-month period prior to competition – in time to race in Derby, but the UCI did not grant her a switch in licence

Sports stars who oppose trans women competing in female-only events

Sharron Davies: The swimmer  says the argument about trans women competing in female events is simply a matter of ‘biology’.

She previously wrote in the Mail on Sunday: ‘When Lia Thomas competed as a man before her transition two years ago, she was an average swimmer at university level, outside the top 500 for the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

‘Lia has been taking testosterone-suppression medication for the required last 12 months, as stipulated in the NCAA rules, but no amount of it can reverse the physical benefits of male puberty.

‘She has greater upper-body strength and significantly more muscle mass than a woman of the same weight and height. She has a greater lung capacity, better VO2 uptake, different bone density, she is nearly 6ft 4in tall and has large hands and feet that act like paddles.

She is a male competing against females and it is hugely unfair.’ 

Martina Navratilova: The tennis great has called for transgender swimmer Lia Thomas to have an asterisk by her name when she wins women’s races, arguing that the 22-year-old athlete’s racing against biological females is unfair and should be noted.

Navratilova, widely considered to be among the world’s greatest ever tennis players, said that the current rules, permitting Thomas to compete as a woman because she has completed the required year of testosterone-reduction treatment, were wrong.

‘It’s not about excluding transgender women from winning ever,’ the 65-year-old said. ‘But it is about not allowing them to win when they were not anywhere near winning as men.’

Dame Kelly Holmes: The Olympic gold medal has lent her support to the Fair Play for Women campaign, which insists that female athletes are at a clear disadvantage against trans rivals.

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British Cycling has recently suspended its trans policy, blocking athletes from switching their racing licence from male to female until they had reviewed their rules.

Bridges, who was on British Cycling’s senior academy in 2019 and came out as a transgender woman in October 2020, said the spotlight placed on her made her ‘scared’ she would be ‘recognised in public’.

She added: ‘I’m scared a lot of the time about being who I am in public. 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.’

During the subsequent debate, British Cycling said it was suspending its transgender policy pending a review ‘to find a better answer’. 

Some of those most vocal against Bridges’ potential inclusion in the March event pointed to the fact she had competed in the men’s points race of the British Universities’ Championships a month earlier. 

The cyclist accepts in hindsight it was maybe the wrong decision but insisted it was made to ensure she remained competitive, especially ahead of appearing at the championships in Derby, which initial British Cycling rules on transgender participation ensured she could enter. 

‘It probably wasn’t the right thing to do,’ Bridges admitted. 

‘I wanted to do it because I wanted to keep my skills sharp. Immediately after I came off the track, I was like ‘I kind of wish I hadn’t done that’ because I knew what was coming.’ 

Bridges was cleared to compete by British Cycling after reducing her testosterone to the required levels but she was then blocked by the UCI, whose guidelines allow them six weeks to convene an expert panel to review a case.

UCI president David Lappartient admitted in an interview that their current rules on testosterone were ‘probably not enough’, but it remains to be seen whether Bridges will eventually be deemed eligible to race after the six-week deadline.

In the letter addressed to Lappartient and other UCI chiefs, the group of women – predominantly made up of former elite female cyclists including Sara Symington, one of British Cycling’s most senior figures – expressed their ‘deep regret’ about the ‘crisis situation’.

They wrote: ‘Recently female athletes in the UK have shown you that they were willing to boycott their own National Championships to get the UCI and British Cycling to hear their concerns about fairness in sport.

‘That is how seriously female athletes are taking this issue and we greatly respect what our sisters were willing to sacrifice to have their voices heard. We are saddened that this should ever have been necessary.

‘We believe that rule 13.5.015 does not guarantee female athletes ‘fair and meaningful’ competition as the UCI has promised.

‘We believe that the rule is discriminatory in that it advantages only biological male athletes by providing them greater opportunity to compete and enjoy the rewards of sport at its highest level.

The 21-year-old Welsh athlete made headlines in March when her attempts to compete against Olympic hero Dame Laura Kenny at the British National Omnium Championships in the women’s category were thwarted at the 11th hour by world governing body UCI 

Pictured: Bridges before she began her transition and began openly identifying as female

Tories divided by trans views:

Boris Johnson

‘I don’t think that biological men should be competing in female sporting events.’

‘We will have a ban on gay conversion therapy, which to me is utterly abhorrent. But there are complexities and sensitivities when you move from the area of sexuality to the question of gender.’

Sajid Javid – Health Secretary

‘When it comes to conversion therapy, it is absolutely right, as the Government has said, that we ban the so-called conversion therapy for LGB people. When it comes to trans, I do think that we need to be more careful.’

William Wragg – 1922 Committee deputy chairman

I can see no logic in excluding trans people from legislation banning conversion therapy. Let’s have some empathy.’

Jacob Rees-Mogg – Brexit Opportunities Minister

‘I think as often the Bible gives the best answer to this: Genesis 127. ”God made man in His own image. He made man and he made woman, he made both of them.”

Alicia Kearns (backbencher) 

What makes trans people deserve to be abused? That’s the [question] to every person supporting this decision.’ 

Elliot Colburn – gay Tory MP

‘We have a responsibility to take the heat out of these debates in recent months/years, especially on Trans issues. All this builds up a worrying narrative. It’s totally unnecessary and a massive own goal.’ 

Jamie Wallis – trans Tory MP

‘Understandably, concerns need to be looked at and debated, but it is wrong to exclude protections for a whole group of people from a practice described as ”abhorrent”.’

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‘We ask that unless the UCI can provide robust scientific evidence that the rule guarantees fairness for female athletes, that the UCI rescind rule 13.5.015 effective immediately and implement eligibility criteria for the female category that is based on female biological characteristics.’

Symington was a cyclist for Great Britain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and was performance director at England Netball and UK Athletics before returning to British Cycling in January as head of their Olympic and Paralympic programmes.

Other British signatories of the letter include Yvonne McGregor, who won a track cycling bronze at Sydney 2000, and Mandy Bishop, the 1982 world road race champion.

After the UCI’s intervention and failure to grant Bridges a switch in licence, British Cycling suspended its transgender policy pending a review to ‘find a better answer’.

It meant any hopes the cyclist from Wales had of competing at the Commonwealth Games – where transgender females are allowed to race in the women’s event – in Birmingham this summer were dashed. 

Bridges added: ‘I knew that my main goal for the season, the Commonwealth Games, was then out of the question because I couldn’t race this event, and it was unlikely I was going to be able to race any international events during the Welsh Cycling’s set timeframe for the selection. 

‘So the Commonwealth Games were gone. I feel a real pride about being Welsh and I wanted to represent my country.’ 

Bridges also said one of her main goals was to make sport inclusive for ‘everybody’.

She said:’ I don’t know if I see myself as a role model (for trans women) but I would like to think what I’m doing is helping other people and making things easier for the people who come after me. 

‘That’s the goal to make people feel more comfortable in who they are and hopefully make cycling and sport a more welcome place for everyone – not just trans people or LGBT – for everyone.

‘Sport, from what I’ve seen of it, is not an inclusive space.’

Responding to Bridges’ comments, a British Cycling spokesperson said: ‘We are determined to ensure that cycling is a welcoming and inclusive place for all, and we are working hard to find a better answer to the challenge of balancing inclusion and fairness in competition which is shared by many other sports. 

‘In doing this we have called on a coalition of organisations and voices, both within and outside of sport, to come together so that we can provide all athletes with the clarity and certainty they deserve.

‘We believe that it is important that there is consistency between our Transgender and Non-binary Participation Policy and the policies and guidance held by other governing bodies and key stakeholders.  

‘For this reason, we are currently undertaking a full and thorough review of our policy and will share further details on the framework for this in the coming weeks.

‘We sincerely apologise for the uncertainty caused by the suspension of our policy, particularly for the transgender and non-binary communities and women in our sport, and we will be actively engaging with these communities as part of our policy review.’

What are the rules for trans people who want to take part in international sports? 

International Olympic Committee  

For a trans woman (male to female MTF) athletes must declare their gender and not change that assertion for four years, as well as demonstrate a testosterone level of less than 10 nanomoles per litre for at least one year prior to competition and throughout the period of eligibility. 

Athletes who transitioned from female to male (FTM)  were allowed to compete without restriction. These guidelines were in effect for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Cycling

All transgender athletes wishing to compete in the category corresponding to their new gender must make their request to the medical manager appointed by the UCI, at least six weeks before the date of the first competition.

The athlete’s file will be passed on to a commission of three international experts independent of the UCI to assess the athlete’s eligibility to compete in the new gender.

The athlete must prove that their serum testosterone level has been below 5 nmol/L for at least 12 months prior to the eligibility date.

Once deemed eligible, the athlete must agree to keep their serum testosterone level below 5 nmol/L for the entire time they compete in the Women category.  

Football

For a Trans man (FTM) the hormone level of blood testosterone is within the natal male range for an appropriate length of time. The individual must provide medical records and undergo annual hormone treatment verification.

Trans woman (MTF) the hormone level or gonadectomy results of blood testosterone is within the natal female range for an appropriate length of time. The individual must provide medical records and undergo annual hormone treatment verification.

Tennis 

A trans woman (MTF) must have ‘less than 5 nmol/L of testosterone for at least 12 months. It could be a longer period to prevent any advantage in female competition.

A trans man (FTM) must provide a written and signed declaration, in a form satisfactory to the International Tennis Federation, that his gender identity is male. 

Rugby

Trans women (MTF) are currently banned from playing international rugby because their testosterone gives them too much advantage because of their size and increases the chance of injury of others.

Trans men (FTM) can play international rugby for men as long as they can prove they are physically able and not facing serious injury.

Rowing

Trans men may compete as their affirmed gender, and trans women ‘may compete in their affirmed gender in female or mixed-sex domestic competition by providing evidence that her hormone therapy has brought her blood- measured testosterone levels within the range of her affirmed gender or that she has had a gonadectomy.’

Boxing  

The change gender in the sport it requires genital surgery and gonadectomy. 

Individuals undergoing sex reassignment from male to female after puberty (and vice versa) be eligible for participation in female or male competitions, respectively, under the following conditions:

Surgical anatomical changes have been completed, including external genitalia changes and gonadectomyLegal recognition of their assigned sex has been conferred by the appropriate official authoritiesHormonal therapy appropriate for the assigned sex has been administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time to minimize gender-related advantages in sport competitions 

Weightlifting

A trans woman (MTF) must show evidence that hormone therapy has been administered in a verifiable manner and for a sufficient length of time – two year minimum – to minimise gender related competitive advantages.

If gender confirmation surgery has been completed, the athlete is in good health, and has been cleared by their surgeon to participate in weightlifting, they can apply to compete. 

A trans man (FTM) has to meet the same criteria – other than if hormone therapy is desired, it must be monitored by a medical doctor and not being used as a way to enhance athletic advantage. There is no minimum time frame, however.

Swimming

A trans woman (MTF) must have undergone at least one year of testosterone suppression treatment before being eligible to compete on a women’s team. 

The guidelines also make clear that: ‘A trans female (MTF) athlete who is not taking hormone treatments related to gender transition may not compete on a women’s team.’ 

For a trans male (FTM) there is a general consensus that transsexual men and boys, even after a considerable period of time on testosterone therapy, do not usually have an unfair physical advantage over other men.

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