Vogue magazine, renowned for its avant-garde take on culture and fashion, finds itself in the eye of a storm. The prestigious publication’s annual “Vogue 25 Powerhouse” list, highlighting women shaping the British narrative, has left many unhappy. The reason? The magazine chose to spotlight just one sportsperson, who is transgender.
Emily Bridges Was at the Center of Nationwide Uproar
The 22-year-old Welsh cyclist, Emily Bridges is no stranger to the media spotlight. 2022 saw her at the center of a nationwide uproar when she was disallowed from participating in the women’s category at a major British Cycling championship because of her transgender identity.
This exclusion, however, was just the beginning of her journey as a vocal advocate for the rights of transgender athletes.
In its 2023 feature, Vogue painted Bridges as a beacon for change, emphasizing her battle for transgender inclusion in sports. T
he magazine writes, “The Welsh 22-year-old is fighting for inclusion for herself and other transgender sportspeople”.
Her Transgender Inclusion to the Women’s British Cycling Championship Has NOT Gone Down Well
However, this has not gone down well with everyone. The lack of representation from other stellar sportswomen, especially the notable English Lionesses after their World Cup performance, only fueled the debate.
Cathy Devine, recognized for her feminist philosophy insights, voiced her discomfort at Vogue’s selection, stating, “Ludicrously Vogue chooses male cyclist Emily Bridges as one of its top 25 women. Emily Bridges is fighting for males to be included in female sports. And losing.”
Julia Hartley-Brewer, a presenter for the British channel TalkTV, was particularly outraged at Vogue’s choice of headline. Addressing Bridges’ quote – “I was banned from competitive cycling because I’m trans,” Hartley-Brewer said, “Emily Bridges isn’t banned from competitive cycling,” adding that she is welcome to compete in “the correct category.”
“Her Brave Fight for Fairness Is Far From Over and Armed With Genuine Science, This Trans Voice Will Finally Be Heard”
On the other side of the debate, many from the LGBTQ+ community and beyond have rallied behind Bridges. One Twitter user posted, “This is sensational. The ultimate acknowledgment, acceptance, and inclusivity. Her brave fight for fairness is far from over and armed with genuine science, this trans voice will finally be heard.”
Bridges journey into cycling began at the age of 10, and she had been nurturing an Olympic dream for the 2024 Paris event. However, the unexpected ban turned her trajectory upside down.
In her interaction with Vogue, Bridges commented on the daunting atmosphere surrounding the debate yet maintained her optimism, saying, “It’s very scary at the moment, but I genuinely believe that we will win.” She also expressed her intention to challenge the decision in court.
Loughborough University Will Determine if Transgender Athletes Possess Any “Unfair Advantage”
Bridges’ dedication extends to the scientific realms as well. Vogue stated that she has been contributing muscle samples to Loughborough University for research to determine if transgender athletes possess any “unfair advantage.”
The cyclist took to Instagram to share her gratitude for Vogue’s recognition, delving into the emotional turmoil she endured. “It took real introspection and some incredibly dark times to realize and fully accept this, and when I did, it broke me. I knew that to move forward with my life, and for me to grow as a person, I had to separate my self-worth from cycling,” she wrote.
Bridges added that her current emotional stability made her “truly grateful” to be featured on the list.
“Sport Is Inherently Unfair. That’s Why There Are Winners and Losers”
In a piece accompanying the Vogue 25 announcement, Bridges – who came out as transgender nearly three years prior – did not shy away from addressing the harsh backlash she’s faced, including death threats.
She philosophically mused, “Sport is inherently unfair. That’s why there are winners and losers. Competitors are put into categories so everyone has a reasonable shot at winning, but the reality is that the playing field is never completely level in the first place. All athletes have different levels of endurance and physical ability; that’s why we train relentlessly.”
Vogue Has Intensified the Dialogue Surrounding Transgender Rights, Sports, and Societal Acceptance
In the end, Vogue’s choice to spotlight Emily Bridges in their “Top 25 Women” has only intensified the dialogue surrounding transgender rights, sports, and societal acceptance. Only time will tell if this conversation leads to greater understanding or further division.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Oksana Zavadskaya. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.