To mark the end of this year’s Pride Month, our Business Services Director, Rod Findlay, highlights the vital importance of breaking down the barriers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) participation in cycling activities and events.
Over the past month it’s been fantastic to see so many of our clubs and groups showing their support for Pride Month, with rides taking place in Cornwall, Barnsley, Derbyshire and across the country as part of the #OurPrideRide celebration.
At British Cycling we’re proud to have supported initiatives like Pride Month, Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign and LGBT History Month over recent years. This is because we understand the importance of creating an environment where all riders feel welcomed, supported and at home – this applies to sexuality as well as all other characteristics. And despite the fact that some progress has been made in creating a more inclusive environment, it’s clear that cycling still has some way to travel.
I was recently struck by a feature in Cycling Weekly on the absence of LGBTQ+ riders in the pro-peloton, and in particular this quote from an anonymous rider:
“None of the riders I trained with would be explicitly homophobic in an abusive way. It was just that there was just no space for being open about it.”
It took me back to my school days when a group of six or seven pupils had the courage to come out to their fellow students. That was many years ago and professional cycling should have developed those safe spaces in the intervening years.
We understand that this is a societal challenge, and a particularly strong one for sport as a whole – however that is no excuse for inaction. We also know that this isn’t an issue confined to cycling’s upper echelons, and is one which also impacts LGBTQ+ people on the weekend club run, in our decision-making structures and in our own workforce. I know some people in those groups are comfortable being open, but I’d wager that many more are not.
Next week I’m pleased to say that we will be launching our first long-term diversity and inclusion strategy, which will set out our ambition to embed equality, diversity and inclusion at the very heart of everything we do. We’ve received fantastic support from both the British Cycling Board and our independent External Advisory Group over recent months as we have honed our plans, and we are already hard at work progressing our implementation plans for the first year of the strategy. That includes ongoing diversity and unconscious bias training for colleagues; advertising our vacancies in different locations; and working with Regional Boards to help source diverse candidates for election to regional and national roles this September.
This is vital work, with many interlinking parts, but our reason for doing it is incredibly clear. We want to create that space of which the rider above speaks. The space for riders to stand on the start line as their full self, without fear of judgement. The space for riders to be open and frank about the barriers they face, and how we can work to overcome them. The space to celebrate the diversity of our sport and activity and how it benefits every single one of us.
Though many will fail to see these barriers or understand their causes, through listening to the LGBTQ+ community we know that there is work to do and we are more committed than ever to breaking those barriers down. Please do get in touch with me or my colleagues if you’d like to discuss those barriers and what we can do to help.
Business Services Director, British Cycling