We have been overwhelmed by the positive reaction to our interview with Clay Davies, Britain’s only openly gay elite-level male rider. We hope the piece helps to spark change within cycling, taking it to a point where riders can be themselves and acceptance is the norm. As Clay said in his interview, however, there is still some way to go.
As if to underline the point, just after Clay’s interview was published, a talented male junior rider reached out to us, keen to share his own story and experiences of being a gay rider in the sport. He has asked that we published this piece anonymously, fearful of how he might be perceived by other riders, coaches, teams, etc. This is what he had to say…
I started riding competitively shortly after the Olympics in 2012. I was roughly 8 years old. I didn’t yet know about my sexuality but, at this point, cycling seemed like a very welcoming sport. I joined a local club and many were very happy to help.
I first knew I was gay when I was around 13 or 14. At that time, coming out at school didn’t feel like an option for me, let alone at a bike race, despite having known a lot of the other lads on the national circuit for quite a few years.
It was also around this time where the laddish behaviour from fellow riders started to appear. This manifested itself with homophobic slurs, insulting other riders in a homophobic way, and even talking about girls in a derogatory way.
It made me question if it was the right sport, a safe sport, for people like me.
As a young lad who had just started getting top results in the youth national series, this was demoralising. It made me question if it was the right sport, a safe sport, for people like me. In fact, I still question how much things have changed when I hear juniors and under-23s using the same homophobic language they did half a decade ago. I could easily name and shame, but I won’t.
In my experience, British Cycling does not care about this issue. Countless times I have been at British Cycling-run sessions – like Regional Schools of Racing (RSRs), and even on Great Britain Cycling Team apprentice camps and the Junior Academy – and a rider has said something homophobic, transphobic or used a slur in front of the coaches, in front of commissaires, and none of them has reacted in the slightest.
At an RSR level, British Cycling pushes out workshops on anti-doping, which is great, but that is only one aspect of making cycling a safe sport. In three years of these sessions, I never once heard anything about inclusivity. Even now, I see British Cycling statements about pride or ethnic inclusion, and I find them wishy-washy and forced.
These experiences have left me feeling like my sport doesn’t want me; if the governing body doesn’t care, who will?
It’s not that we need to force anyone to come out, but rather we need to create a space where riders feel safe enough to be who they are
I do feel that attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community in cycling are changing. The mostly positive reaction to Justin Laevens coming out a few months ago, and more recently Clay, is something I didn’t think we would see in cycling for a much longer time. This makes me hopeful that one day I will feel able to share who I am with others. For now, however, there is still a lot of work to be done, at all levels of the sport. It’s not that we need to force anyone to come out, but rather we need to create a space where riders feel safe enough to be who they are.
Featured image: Will Palmer/SWpix.com – 12/06/2021 – Cycling – Junior Tour of Yorkshire – Boys Road Race (Stage 3), York, England – The boys road race rolls out during the neutralised zone.