British Cycling is allowing biological males to participate in its female-only Breeze community rides and has ejected one concerned woman from its Facebook group for ride leaders for using the term “male”, on the grounds that this constitutes discriminatory language.
Several “Breeze champions”, who plan and lead bike rides in their local areas to help women feel more comfortable and confident about cycling, have spoken to Telegraph Sport to express alarm about what they regard as a blindspot in British Cycling policy.
The Breeze programme was set up explicitly and exclusively “by women for women”, but those born male are still self-identifying into these events without any questions being asked.
In an online meeting on June 8, one Breeze champion said to British Cycling: “A woman who has suffered maybe domestic abuse decides to get life back on track, make some friends, do something new. She signs up to do a ride, only to find that she’s the only biological female on a ride led by a man. How do you tell her that’s acceptable? That her right to feel safe is less important than the champion’s right to lead it? I’d like to know how that’s justified.”
A British Cycling representative interjected: “I’ll jump in there. We won’t be accepting the terminology around ‘man’, ‘male’.”
Staff not allowed to use terms ‘men’ or ‘male’
It has been confirmed that the woman was subsequently banned from the organisation’s Facebook group for Breeze champions. She argued that she was only stating biological reality and that she was legally entitled to express gender-critical views, but the ban has remained in place.
Sarah Doney, a Breeze ride leader in mid-Wales, was so upset by the situation that she sent a letter last week to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, requesting urgent advice. “I am concerned because women come to these rides expecting them to be male-free, and I’ve been told by British Cycling staff that we are not allowed to use the terms ‘men’ or ‘male’. That means I am not allowed to tell women the truth even if they ask.
“I cannot see how it is acceptable for them to compel my speech in this way. I feel my own belief that people cannot change sex is being denied. I am not the only woman in this situation, but everyone is afraid of being dropped as a Breeze champion.”
The EHRC responded to Doney on Thursday, disclosing that it had engaged with British Cycling on the issue and that it was seeking assurances that the governing body was “developing policies in consultation with members with a range of views, and in accordance with their Equality Act obligations”.
Doney also copied the letter to Jon Dutton, chief executive of British Cycling, who this week replied to her: “Whilst individuals are entitled to hold gender-critical views, that does not give them the unfettered power to voice those views without consequence. Misgendering of a trans person can constitute a form of discrimination.”
‘Breeze programme always open to transgender women’
The woman in question insisted she had not used any offensive language and that her opinions were legally protected.
The case of Maya Forstater, who last year won her discrimination claim against the Centre for Global Development Europe, established that gender-critical views were protected as a belief under the 2010 Equality Act.
A British Cycling spokesperson said: “With inclusion at its heart, the Breeze programme has always been open to transgender women, and we restated this commitment in our revised transgender and non-binary policy position in May this year. We have been very clear that the deliberate misgendering of individuals is a breach of our code of conduct.
“British Cycling is committed to ensuring that all riders feel welcome, supported and respected in our sport and activities, and as part of this we ask volunteers to address others in a respectful way, offering dignity towards those to whom the comments are directed.”