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Elite cyclist Clay Davies comes out as gay: ‘It took me nearly dying to reveal my sexuality’

Maggie Baska August 24, 2021
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Gay elite British cyclist Clay Davies

Gay elite cyclist Clay Davies opens up about homophobia he's experienced in sport and the "pretty low baseline of understanding" of LGBT+ inclusion within British Cycling. (Instagram/@clayddd)

Elite cyclist Clay Davies says it took him nearly dying to come out publicly as gay.

Davies came out publicly in an extensive interview with British Continental at the end of July. The outlet reported that there are currently over 415 male riders with an elite or first category license in the UK, and that Davies is the only among them who is openly queer.

He told British Continental that he has been open about his sexuality with his friends and family for seven years, but that it took him “nearly being killed” for him to come out publicly.

After he was knocked off his bike by a car, he broke both his arms and had his head “crushed by the rear wheel of an Audi”.

“That was my epiphany, the moment I decided to come out and tell people,” Clay Davies told the British Continental. “But it shows how deeply in the closet I had been beforehand.”

He continued: “It took quite literally nearly dying for me to reveal my sexuality. Basically, I thought: ‘F**k it, I’m going to go and tell everyone now.'”

In the interview, he explained there is a “perception” that pro cyclists have a “bit of a closed mindset” and might “behave strangely if they knew you were gay“.

He recalled being at the Eastern region road race championships a couple of years ago and witnessing “homophobic slurs being thrown around” which he said “wasn’t just banter”.

“It was nasty,” he added. “I distinctly remember it.”

 

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A post shared by Clay Davies (@clayddd)

Davies argued that a change in culture needed to start with Britain’s governing body for the sport – British Cycling.

But, he told daily cycling podcast Quicklink, he has yet to hear from the organisation since he came out last month.

“It’s shocking, to be honest, that British Cycling haven’t reached out to me directly,” Davies said. “It’s been three weeks now.”

He added that there is a “pretty low baseline of understanding” within the governing body when it comes to LGBT+ issues and inclusion in sport. Davies reckoned British Cycling is “10 years in the past” if not “probably more to be brutally honest”.

“I think it’s all about the management there, understanding what the issue is properly with the right quality of staff, dare I say it. Then them getting a plan of action in place,” Davies explained.

He told Quicklink that he believed British Cycling needs to “start from scratch really” even though he thought they might have “some sort of diversity board type thing”.

“But unless it [LGBTQ+ prejudice] is […] near the very top of the priority list and linked to dare I say funding and sponsors” then much wouldn’t change, Davies believed.

Clay Davies is not the only openly LGBT+ elite cyclist, but he does represent a huge step forward in terms of queer representation for elite British cycling.

Former world champion cyclist Graeme Obree revealed he is gay in 2011 and opened up about his struggles with mental health as he came to terms with his sexuality.

Philippa York, who won the “King of the Mountains” competition in the 1984 Tour de France, told iNews in 2019 that she realised she was trans when she was 27, but she felt her career as a cyclist was “way too complicated to start transitioning”.

York described how she had to “bury” her identity and decided to “transition when my career had finished”. She said “any diversity wasn’t looked upon very well” at the time and being trans was “beyond most people’s comprehension”.

A British Cycling spokesperson told PinkNews that the concerns raised by Davies and “others in recent weeks are deeply upsetting”. As the national governing body for cycling, the group said it fully understands “our responsibility to ensure that ours is a sport which is open and accessible for all”.

The spokesperson said: “Earlier this year we appointed our first independent diversity and inclusion advisory group and have since published a landmark long-term strategy to guide our work in this space in the years ahead.

“While we acknowledge that our sport still has some way to travel to be truly reflective of Britain’s diverse communities, we are absolutely committed to working with others to be a positive force for change.”

British Cycling told PinkNews has now reached out to Davies and hopes to “discuss his experiences in more detail in the near future”.

The spokesperson added “anybody in our sport who is subject to or witnesses any type of discriminatory or inappropriate behaviour” is encouraged to report it to the British Cycling Compliance team “so that we can take the appropriate action and send a clear message that homophobia and transphobia will not be tolerated in our sport”.

Related topics: gay athletes

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