Emily Bridges, a dedicated competitive cyclist, has made the difficult decision to step back from the sport she loves. Her cycling journey, transitioning from the male to the female category, had been driven by aspirations of competing on an international stage, representing Great Britain in the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. However, the road to her dreams has been clouded by the impact of trans athlete bans in the sports realm.
Bridges had set her sights on qualifying for the Olympics, but her plans took a different turn as she encountered bans set by British Cycling and the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body for cycling. These bans prohibit most trans women from participating in the female category.
While these regulations might have allowed her to compete in the “open” category, Bridges faced an additional challenge. After undergoing a couple of years of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as part of her transition, her athletic capability was noticeably affected. HRT, a standard part of the transition process, inherently reduces the athletic performance of trans women.
Moreover, Bridges, like many trans athletes, expressed that being barred from the female category took a toll on her emotionally. The category she identifies with and where she feels she belongs was no longer a viable option.
“Cycling competitively was my life for the past 12 years,” she wrote. “But now, I’m divesting from the sport – I have to.”
This sentiment echoes the experience of Nikki Hiltz, a trans nonbinary runner.
“Right now, competing in the women’s category still feels OK for me and my gender and where I’m at with that journey,” Hiltz said this week. “But the second it doesn’t, I’m not going to sacrifice myself for my sport. I’m going to choose the relationship with myself before my relationship with track and field.”
The dilemma faced by Bridges is emblematic of a larger issue within the realm of sports. With an increasing number of youth identifying as nonbinary or transgender, the topic of trans inclusion is far from fading.
Bridges has been an articulate advocate for trans inclusion in sports and has maintained a balanced perspective throughout the discourse.
While some sports, like swimming, are exploring the possibility of introducing an “open” category for trans athletes, the path forward remains uncertain. A third gendered or non-gendered category might provide an avenue for inclusive competition, catering to the diversity of athletes and their experiences.