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response to british cycling’s decision to ban trans athletes from competing

Published on: 26.05.2023

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On Friday 26th May, British Cycling announced a new policy that effectively banned trans women from competing in the female category at elite levels. This follows their suspension of their ‘Transgender and Non-Binary Participation Policy’ to conduct a review into these processes for trans+ athletes.

Announced today, the updated policy from British Cycling includes two different categories; ‘Female’ and ‘Open’. The ‘Female’ category excludes anyone who was not assigned female at birth from competing, whilst transgender women, men and non-binary individuals will only be eligible to compete in the ‘Open’ category, alongside anyone who was assigned male at birth.

These new categories come with a multitude of issues, one of the big ones being that trans men who are yet to start their hormone replacement journey, are forced to compete in the ‘Female’ category. These changes to the categories also mean that trans athletes cannot compete in any women’s races, such as British cyclist, Emily Bridges.

Emily, who was last year banned from competing in the National Omnium Championships, is the highest-profile trans women in UK cycling and has criticised the British Cycling’s decision on a statement shared to her instagram profile;

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A post shared by Emily Bridges (@emilybridges45_)

Emily, who came out in 2020, has previously stated that her wish is to simply compete for Wales in the Commonwealth in the women’s categories. Emily has previously spoken about the challenges that come alongside being a visible figurehead whilst the toxic debate regarding trans-inclusion in sport is being stoked by the media and society as a whole.

Not A Phase Chief Exec, Dani St. James, said today of the decision “As we have proven over the last three years of running our fitness and wellness programme, Misfits, physical activity and the sense of comradery that comes with team participation can significantly improve the mental health of our community. It is incredibly saddening to see a governing body take such an active stance against us at a time where allyship is needed more than ever. We stand strong with Emily and all of those that have been affected by this decision, trans+ people are being used as a distraction tactic in the UK from failing systems and failing leadership, there has never been a greater need for those that support us to speak up.”

Our Misfits fitness classes are aimed at trying to lower the barriers that trans+ adults face in entering and feeling comfortable in typical gym and workout spaces. It’s decisions like the one taken today that can severely affect these individual’s perception of themselves and furthers the narrative that they believe they do not belong in these spaces. A lot of the work we’ve done over the past 4 years has been trying to build up our Misfits confidence and promoting the idea that everyone has the right to feel confident, empowered and safe, whilst breaking the barriers down between trans+ people and the traditional gym or exercise environments.

Blanket bans of trans+ individuals and forcing them into categories that they do not align with or agree with is incredibly damaging to the community as a whole. Trans+ people deserve to enjoy sport and compete in the categories that their gender identity aligns with and we need our allies to stand up and defend those in the trans community!