Remember the glory days of the 2012 London Olympics? When Laura Trott (as she was then) won gold in the women’s omnium? By 2016, she had won 7 world titles, 10 European titles and 4 Olympic golds and was already the most successful British female Olympian.
Laura married Jason Kenny and they went on to become known as Britain’s golden couple. Despite having baby Albie in 2017, Laura incredibly represented Britain at Tokyo in the summer of 2021, winning the team pursuit silver and then gold in the women’s madison with Katie Archibald.
It’s incredibly hard for a woman to regain world class form after having a baby, but on top of that, Laura sustained a broken shoulder and arm 18 months before Tokyo, and yet was still able to treat us to a world beating display of class.
By any measure, in any era, across a range of cycling disciplines, Laura Kenny is quite simply an exceptional athlete.
And now there’s a new kid on the block who has recorded some blistering times. In 2018 aged just 17 Zach Bridges set the British record for the 25 mile individual time trial for junior men, with a time over 2 minutes faster than Hayley Simmonds, who holds the elite female record over the same distance. Bridges is clearly an extremely talented rider with the potential – based on his junior performances – to achieve the sort of success realised by Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins.
But what has this to do with the legend that is Laura Kenny?
Well, Zach is now known as Emily, and as a result of British Cycling’s trans policy Emily Bridges is eligible to ride in women’s events and is planning to do so from April 2022. We are about to be treated to the spectacle of one of the greatest ever female athletes being measured against a man who has reduced his testosterone to levels that would be considered doping in a woman.
Bridges now considers himself to be a woman, and it seems that is good enough for British Cycling.
Well, not quite. He had to demonstrate that he had reduced his testosterone for 12 months and during that time he continued to compete in men’s events. Bridges recently won a gold medal in the men’s Points Race and a bronze medal in the men’s Team Pursuit at the British Universities and Colleges Track Cycling Championships, beating the Scottish National Scratch Race Champion to do so, but his performance in several other events, including a men’s road race at the Loughborough Cycling Festival was inexplicably poor.
That lack of success is all to the good though because it’s been taken as evidence that reducing his testosterone has reduced his sporting capacity to that of a woman (which only makes sense if we ignore his gold and bronze). Obviously, there couldn’t be any other reason for his drop in performance. Such as not trying very hard.
It's not just that though. Bridges always knew he wasn’t really male because (brace yourself)
“I've never fitted in with any of the kids my age. I wasn't like the boys - I was so different from them and I just couldn't understand the way they acted.”
“I didn't instantly know I was trans but gender nonconformity made sense to me. I wanted to dress in a feminine manner but I'd always had such a deep sense of shame about it. I believed that everyone would hate me for stepping out of my masculine box and wearing dresses or makeup. Nevertheless, I knew deep down that this is who I am.”
This is the travesty that women have been warning about for years.
We have been called hysterical pearl clutchers, accused of hyperbole and told it would never happen. That it didn’t matter when it did happen because the men who competed in women’s events weren’t very good. That if they were good, they had overcome “so much” to get where they were (as if the women hadn’t) that we should applaud them.
And now this national treasure, this role model for girls, this inspiration for women and the quintessential Olympian that is Laura Kenny is expected to compete against a man who has demonstrated his potential to be a world class male cyclist but chose to reduce his testosterone and has special but unmeasurable feelings of femininity.
It’s degrading, demeaning and humiliating.
Not just for Laura Kenny and the other cyclists on the GB team, but for every woman in every sport who is expected to measure herself against such a man. And it’s devastating for the women who lose opportunities because a man has taken their place on the team or on the podium.
You don’t need to be a biologist to know that the difference between women and men is not how much testosterone they have.
You don’t need to be a sports scientist to know that men – even with reduced testosterone – have unassailable physical advantages over women.