Vogue’s recent “25 Powerhouse” list has stirred controversy by featuring transgender cyclist Emily Bridges. Read on for the full story.
Vogue’s Controversial Choice
Vogue magazine, renowned for its avant-garde take on culture and fashion, finds itself in the eye of a storm.
The Magazine Chose to Spotlight One Sportsperson
The prestigious publication’s annual “Vogue 25 Powerhouse” list, which highlights women shaping the British narrative, has left many unhappy. The reason? The magazine chose to spotlight just one sportsperson, and she happens to be transgender.
Emily Bridges, the 22-year-old Welsh cyclist, 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 on account of her transgender identity.
From Exclusion to Empowerment
This exclusion, however, was just the beginning of her journey as a vocal advocate for the rights of transgender athletes.
Lack of Representation
Vogue, in its 2023 feature, painted Bridges as a beacon for change, emphasizing her battle for transgender inclusion in sports. The magazine writes, “The Welsh 22-year-old is fighting for inclusion for herself and other transgender sportspeople”.
Backlash and Criticism
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.
“The Correct Category”
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.”
LGBTQ+ Support and Optimism
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.”
A Dream Derailed
Bridges journey into cycling began at the young 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.
Optimism Amidst Adversity
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.
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.”
Gratitude and Reflection
The cyclist took to Instagram to share her gratitude for Vogue’s recognition, delving into the emotional turmoil she endured.
“I Had to Separate My Self-Worth From Cycling”
“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.
Starting a Conversation
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.
Leveling the Playing Field
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.”
An Intense Debate
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.
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Banias. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.