Transgender cyclist Emily Bridges has spoken about her dream to one day represent Wales at the Commonwealth Games.
Bridges, who set a national junior men’s record over 25 miles in 2018, is currently banned from taking part as a woman in competitive races.
She has faced backlash on social media as the global debate about trans participation in sport has intensified, which also led to a number of hate-filled threats, including violence.
However, despite the continued ban from participating, she has told ITV News she would still love to represent her country in a major competition.
“I’m so incredibly proud to be Welsh,” Emily said. “This is who I am. I am a Welsh trans woman.
“Yma O Hyd is a song that means so much to me and I know it means a lot to so many Welsh people about still being here throughout everything.
“I love Wales and it’s a dream to be in that Welsh jersey in the Commonwealth Games.
“I’ve had all the opportunities to leave cycling, but I’ve never wanted to. It’s just part of who I am.”
When Emily began the transition from male to female, the policy from British Cycling presented a pathway for her to compete as a woman.
It stated that Emily “must keep testosterone levels below five nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months”.
What is testosterone?
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men and plays a role in the development of male sexual characteristics and physical features.
‘Usual’ levels of testosterone in females are considered to be between 0.3 and 2.4 nanomoles per litre, ten times lower than the average in men.
In her first race as a female, she competed with men, where she finished 43rd out of 45 elite male cyclists - a performance she said was owed to lower levels of energy due to the hormone therapy she was receiving.
In March, as she approached her first race with other women in line with British Cycling’s policy, Emily was prevented from competing because of a technicality in the rules of the UCI, the governing body for sports cycling.
At the time, a UCI statement read: “It would be reasonable to allow transgender athletes to compete with other female athletes if, and only if, the inclusion of these athletes does not unduly alter health and safety of participants and guarantee fair and meaningful competitions.”
Following the ruling, British Cycling suspended its transgender and non-binary participation policy entirely, pending further review.
Critics of trans women’s participation in female sport argue that there are still unfair physical advantages, such as height and physique, even if testosterone has been reduced to similar levels seen in women.
However, Emily has long maintained that she no longer has an unfair competitive advantage.
“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.
“What you are trying to root out is such an overwhelming difference and a reduction of testosterone creates a fair playing field.”
Since the decision to suspend its participation policy, British Cycling have said: “We remain committed to ensuring that transgender and non-binary people are welcomed, supported and celebrated in the non-binary community.”
Speaking after the decision, Emily acknowledged that while the decision has had an impact on her self esteem, she has made progress during her transition.
“This journey has been a very wild ride. I’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows,” she continued.
“Realistically, I wouldn’t change anything for the world.
“I love my body now. For the first time ever I feel comfortable with who I am. I’m still here.”
You can watch Race To Be Me at 9:30pm on Tuesday, November 29 on ITV Cymru Wales.