It took a near-death experience for elite British cyclist Clay Davies to come out as gay. He blames his apprehension around the lack of support for LGBTQ people within his sport.
Davies publicly came out last month in an interview with British Continental. In it, the 29-year-old pro talks about cycling’s insular environment, and how that prevented him from living his truth.
“There’s this perception – whether it’s true or not, and I think it is to some degree – that serious amateur cyclists, pro cyclists, semi-pro, elite riders, whatever, are quite a funny bunch,” he said. “That they’re not quite as socially dynamic as others, that there’s a bit of a closed mindset, a not-quite-as-worldly type of approach. That they might behave strangely if they knew you were gay.”
Davies, who rides for the Spirit Bontrager BSS Rotor team, was knocked off his bike by a car seven or eight years ago. He broke both of his arms and battered his head. After suffering those catastrophic injuries, Davies says he began telling people his sexuality.
“That was my epiphany, the moment I decided to come out and tell people,” he said. “But it shows how deeply in the closet I had been beforehand. It took quite literally nearly dying for me to reveal my sexuality.”
In recent years, Davies recounts hearing riders dish out anti-gay slurs, including at a road race championship. He says the tone was downright “nasty.” During one particular episode, Davies says his roommate wouldn’t shower while he was in the room.
Since his British Continental interview, Davis says the reaction has been “entirely positive.” Yet, he says British Cycling, the national governing body for cycling in Great Britain, hasn’t reached out to him.
The interview was published one month ago.
“It’s shocking, to be honest, that British Cycling (BC) haven’t reached out to me directly,” Davies told the Quicklink daily cycling podcast, via Attitude. “How hard it is for BC to do that? They’ve got my contact details. My name’s not exactly difficult to find, is it? How hard is it for them to send me a one-liner to say, ‘Yes we’ve read it, yes we’re on it, we will get back in touch if we need anything from you’? But, not had a thing.”
In a statement issued to Attitude, British Cycling said Davies’ concerns are “deeply concerning,” and said they have reached out to him. The organization also touted its first independent Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group.
Still, the lack of out male cyclists speaks to cultural issues within the sport. Out of 415 male riders with an elite or first category license in the U.K., Davies is the only out gay person.
Internationally, there are few out elite male cyclists. Former world champion Graeme Obree revealed he was gay in 2011, disclosing he pondered suicide because of his sexuality.
Earlier this year, Belgian teenager Justin Laevens also publicly came out.
Davies hopes his coming out can help show other gay male cyclists they aren’t alone.
“In terms of the comments saying, ‘Sexual identity doesn’t matter in cycling’, or ‘Cycling doesn’t have a sexual identity problem’, it obviously does matter, doesn’t it?,” he said. “If you’re not able to be yourself, to be open about who you are and feel accepted, you can’t reach your full potential, can you?”
That’s something we hear out LGBTQ people say all the time. Being closeted is an exhausting experience. It wears you down, breeds anxiety, and destroys your self confidence.
Out and free, Davies expects to post the best times of his career. What an example that would be.