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British professional cyclist Clay Davies has come out of the closet as gay, and revealed the frightening ordeal that led him to open up about his sexuality to the world.
In a new interview with The British Continental, Davies, 29, revealed that a near-fatal run-in with a motorist prompted him to come out, at least to his friends and family.
“It took being knocked off my bike by a car nearly being killed, for me to come out,” Davies recalled. “I broke both my arms and had my head crushed by the rear wheel of an Audi. That was my epiphany, the moment I decided to come out and tell people. But it shows how deeply in the closet I had been beforehand. It took quite literally nearly dying for me to reveal my sexuality. Basically, I thought, ‘F*ck it, I’m going to go and tell everyone now.’”
Flash forward eight years, and Davies had joined up with the Spirit Bontrager BSS Rotor team as a professional rider. He still had not, however, come out to his teammates.
“I think 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,” Davies explained. “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.”
“I was at the Eastern region road race championships two or three years ago,” he recalled. “There were some homophobic slurs being thrown around the bunch. It wasn’t just banter. It was nasty. I distinctly remember it. It made me so angry that I bridged across to the break. I was so bloody angry, I said, ‘Screw this’ and emptied myself to get across and placed third…It requires quite a lot of energy to be in the closet.”
In the same interview, Davies went on to recall an incident of sharing a room with a fellow rider while on competition in Spain. His roommate for the trip refused to bathe while Davies was in the room, citing his sexuality. Davies also adds that he knows of at least one other gay rider in his league who has not come out publicly due to the homophobia in the sport.
Still, Davies believes things are changing for queer cyclists.
“Things are getting better but very slowly,” Davies said. “It’s my view that change needs to be pushed from the top. You cannot force riders to come out but the UCI, top-level teams and British Cycling can do much more in laying the groundwork for all riders to be themselves and make acceptance the norm. I appreciate that coming forward and doing this interview is ‘out there’. There could be some people who take offense and might not agree that this is the right thing to do. I’m sorry if this is the case, I just hope that this interview at least prompts conversation and thought.”
“It is my honest hope that in a few years’ time,” he concluded, “we will look back at this interview and wonder what all the fuss was about.”
Well said, Clay.