Source: Aja02537920 Twitter

Two biological males who identify as female, Emily Bridges and Lily Chant, placed 1st and 2nd in the open women’s category at London’s ThunderCrit cycling event on June 2.

A viral photo of the podium shows the two men holding their awards and kissing each other while biological woman Jo Smith, the third-place finisher, stands next to them with her daughter in her arms.

Source: Aja02537920 Twitter

ThunderCrit re-formatted it’s race categories in 2021 to be more inclusive of “non-binary competitors.” Their self-proclaimed goal in creating open categories was “to celebrate the differences between riders but offer a level playing field in terms of competition.”

They removed gender based names for the categories, calling the men’s race  “Thunder” and the women’s race “Lightning.”

“We took the decision last year to create a more gender-neutral categorization system that allowed trans and gender-nonconforming athletes, who often feel that there is no safe space for them in the sport, to be embraced and made to feel welcome,” the ThunderCrit website explains.

Source: ThunderCrit Instagram

According to ThunderCrit’s website, the criteria for entering the Lightning category are: “Cis-women, Non-binary people whose physical performance aligns with cis-women, Trans men and women whose physical performance aligns most closely with cis-women.”

However the website notes that “Cis-people cannot choose their racing category. Cis-men will race in the Thunder category, cis-women will race in the Lightning category.” So, on some level the race organizers realize that letting men race against women is not fair.

Source: ThunderCrit Instagram

The ThunderCrit race is the UK’s longest running Fixed Gear Crit and it takes place at Herne Hill Velodrome in East London.

They also boast that the prize money is the same across both racing categories. “We are a small community-based event using our platform to promote inclusivity within the wider cycling community.”

Re-Evaluating the Rules on Transgender Participation

Even at the all-inclusive ThunderCrit race, there are some limits. In their new road crit category sanctioned by British Cycling they are compelled to use the traditional male and female categories for racers.

This means Bridges and Chant would have raced in the men’s category had they registered for this event. According to the Spectator, Chant is still registered as a male in official cycling records.

Bridges was recently blocked from competing in the National Omnium Championships against Olympic legend Laura Kenney after Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the world governing body of cycling ruled that he was ineligible. Although Bridges met British Cycling’s criteria of lowering his testosterone to the required level there was controversy surrounding the fact that he was still registered as a male competitor just one month prior to the Championship race.

Source: ITV News YouTube

The controversy sparked British Cycling to look into it’s current transgender policy.

“We believe all participants within our sport deserve more clarity and understanding around participation in elite competitions and we will continue to work with the UCI on both Emily’s case and the wider situation with regards to this issue,” British Cycling said.

“For this reason, British Cycling is today calling for a coalition to share, learn and understand more about how we can achieve fairness in a way that maintains the dignity and respect of all athletes,” it said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Condemns Trans-Females Competing in Women’s Sports

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently weighed in on the issue, stating that “these are complex issues and they can’t be solved with one swift, easy piece of legislation. It takes a lot of thought to get this right.”

“I don’t think biological males should be competing in female sporting events, “Johnson said. “Maybe that’s a controversial thing to say, but it just seems to me to be sensible.”

Portrait of Boris Johnson Photo Credit: GOV.UK, OGL 3 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Prime Minister’s comments come after the UCI ruled to disqualify Bridges from this year’s championship. UCI had previously come under fire for it’s transgender competition policies after a Canadian man, who identifies as a woman, 37-year-old Rachel McKinnon, set a world record in qualifying for the 35-39 age category 200-meter sprint and won a gold medal at the Masters Track Cycling World Championships in 2019. He even hoped to be the first transgender cyclist to qualify for the Olympics but an injury prevented him from doing so.

“Every athlete has physical advantages and we’re all trying to exploit them,” McKinnon argued. “So, to single out a trans woman, when I lose most of my races, is a little unfair.”

Source: Sky News YouTube

Cycling isn’t the only sport that is having to re-evaluate this issue. US college swimmer William Thomas, who identifies as a woman, has stirred up a lot of controversy with his record-breaking season competing against biological women. That controversy even prompted a prominent sports physiologist at the Mayo Clinic to tell The New York Times that biological males have an undeniable competitive advantage in sports.

Both McKinnon and Thomas set records in women’s competitions. Bridges, however, was setting records on the male cycling team before even switching to compete as a female, so what chance do biological women have at beating him?

Source: NCAA Championships YouTube

Former British Masters champion Victoria Hood, who competed in the same category as McKinnon, pretty much sums up the issue.

“The science is there. The science is clear – it tells us that trans women have an advantage,” she said. “The world record has been beaten by somebody born male, who now identifies as female, and the gap between them and the next born female competitor was quite a lot.”

“It is a human right to participate in sport. I don’t think it’s a human right to identify into whichever category you choose.”

Victoria Hood via Woman’s Place UK YouTube

Two-time Olympian and London Marathon runner-up Mara Yamauchi also weighed in saying describing the men winning the competition a threat to women’s sports. “Yes, I think it absolutely is a threat,” she said.

After detailing the change in categories, she added, “And that means that for females competition is unfair and unsafe. But what I find even more alarming about this event is they’ve said ‘cis people’ and that’s their use of the word ‘cis.’ I don’t use ‘cis’ because I consider it an insult. They’ve said ‘cis’ people cannot choose their category.”

NEXT: Louisiana Joins List Of States That Ban Transgender Athletes From Women Sports

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