'I'm still here': Trans cyclist Emily Bridges still dreams of racing Commonwealth Games for Wales

Welshwoman says sport is "being used as a proxy to hate and attack queer people"

Emily bridges original context only
(Image credit: Future)

Emily Bridges has said that she's "still here" and that she still dreams of riding for Wales at the Commonwealth Games following a tumultuous year in which she was barred from competing in women's racing.

The Welsh trans cyclist was filmed for a documentary for ITV Wales, Race to be Me, which was broadcast on Tuesday evening; it follows her over the last 18 months as she began to race as a woman, and her goal of riding at an elite level.

In it, she says: "I’m still here. I’ve had all the opportunities to leave cycling, but I’ve never wanted to. It’s just part of who I am.

"I love Wales and it’s a dream to be in that Welsh jersey in the Commonwealth Games."

Earlier this year, British Cycling blocked new trans riders from competing after it suspended its policy on transgender and non-binary athletes, pending a full review; that review is set to be completed by Spring 2023.

The policy had only been introduced in January but had received mixed reception among female coaches and riders with some concerned it would effect the ability of cis women to compete.

Bridges, whose aim to compete at the National Championships had brought the issue to the fore, was publicly damning of the decision in June and said the decision was made due to “public pressure.” 

In a piece for Cycling Weekly earlier this year, she said: “I just want to race and race competitively again."

In the ITV documentary, Bridges said that 2022 has seen her have the "highest of highs and lowest of lows", but that she is now comfortable with who she is for the first time. She also argued that competing in the female races was not  unfair.

“I’m aware I have other traits and attributes to other female riders, but they aren’t so widely different that it makes competition unfair," she said.

“What you are trying to root out is such an overwhelming difference and a reduction of testosterone creates a fair playing field.”

The film follows Bridges as she sets out on her journey as a trans cyclist, through the news that she would not be allowed to race, and her adjustment to that fact.

In one scene her parents are shown ordering journalists off their property, such was the media storm around her. It is a reminder of the hounding Bridges has received for simply trying to race.

"I’ve had death threats and threats of violence against me for being visible this year, and I know far too many people who’ve had the same," she wrote in a blog for ITV News. "This isn’t about sport for me, it’s so much more and trying to fight in the way I can and know how to. Sport is being used as a proxy to hate and attack queer people. Enough is enough."

"I’m writing this the day after the Colorado Springs attack in which five people were killed in an attack on an LGBTQ bar in the American city, and I truly have no words for how horrified and terrified I am," Bridges wrote. "It is no coincidence that an attack like this has come after a recent uptick in anti-queer and especially anti-trans rhetoric.

"Two trans people were among the victims of this attack, and their deaths are directly related to dehumanisation and demonisation of trans people in the media, online, and in debates such as those about sports. This is what queer people are facing in 2022. Our basic human rights are being debated over so-called 'valid concerns' leading to radicalisation and attacks."

In a message to her fellow female athletes, she said: "I understand your concerns over fairness. If you’re being told that biological males are coming into your sports and taking away your medals, then it’s perfectly natural to want to fight this. There seems to be an effort at the moment to portray trans women as men who want to infiltrate women's sports for personal gain.

"But, I am not a man, and I hope this documentary shows that trans women and cis women have so many similarities, be they hormonal, physical and in a sporting context, or in the way we face the same fights for much of our existence, and experience sexism in similar ways. All we as trans athletes deserve are the same opportunities, and the same level playing field as everyone else."

Despite admitting that she has been "pretty broken by everything that’s happened", she also said this year has been her best, and maintained "I’m still here".

Bridges writes: "Cycling is slowly coming back into my life, but I'm very much at the start of that journey at the moment. "

The documentary ends with her Mum, who has been present throughout Bridges' journey, saying: "What she [Emily] has done, and the strength and resilience she has shown, has just been incredible."

Bridges concludes: "I'm not sure what the future holds for me, it's a blank page and I'm looking forward to writing it."

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