Much ado about nothing: Who cares about sexual orientation in the pro peloton?

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For several years now we have granted several professional cyclists the space and anonymity to write about whatever they please. The deal is simple: we give them full anonymity and they give us unique insights into their lives, the pro peloton and whatever comes with it.

The latest column written by our female secret pro garnered a mixed response from our readers as well as several pro riders.

You can read the original column here, as well as our response to the feedback we received, here.

One of the SHEcret Pro’s colleagues came forward and asked us to grant her that same blanket of anonymity to publicly respond to the SHEcret Pro. We agreed and here’s her open letter on this topic.

– Anne-Marije Rook – Editor

As a pro cyclist, I’ve always enjoyed reading both the male and female secret pro articles, and have usually agreed with what was written.

The luxury of anonymity allows them to talk about the harsh realities of life as a professional cyclist, and let’s be honest we’d all love to have a good rant about things without any risk of repercussion on our end. But the latest article received a mixed response.

For me personally I agreed with some of the points and disagreed with others, but mostly thought it was a missed opportunity. A platform that could be used to spark debate and expose issues in a more open way was instead reduced to a gossip column. We’re better than that, aren’t we?

Now that I’ve also been blessed with the cloak of anonymity myself, I could do some naming and shaming of my own, or throw my opinion into the ring on any of the topics covered.  However, there’s only one topic that I feel I am qualified to respond to. That’s not to say I’m the definitive authority on the subject, but I can at least speak from my own personal experiences.

I’ve have never publicly announced this before but yes, I am one of these peloton lesbians who are apparently so interesting to the general public. I could have written about this and put my name to it, but quite frankly my sexual orientation is nobody else’s business.

If we’re to believe this column, and the subsequent reply written in response to some of the not so positive feedback, then there is huge interest in the sexuality of the female peloton and it’s something to be talked about. I personally find this hard to believe; and if it is true then it’s a bit sad.

This is a serious topic in general life, but why it needed to be written about in this way I have no idea. I also have no idea who the secret pro is, but I’m willing to guess they themselves are not gay.

The first point, addressing the question “Is it true that 50% of the peloton are lesbians” gave the correct response. Simply put, no. In fact, statistically there are no more in the peloton than in general society. I’ve been on a number of teams in my professional career, some of which have had other gay riders, and others where I’ve been the only one. The thing they share in common? Nobody cared.

Maybe that’s the key to answering the question “Why are there so many?”. The secret pro suggested that same sex relationships were highlighted because it’s more unusual and there are less of us. That’s one possibility, but could it also simply be because we’re not singled out for it in the way this article did? The fact that it’s a mostly accepting and open place, where I personally have never experienced any homophobia or negativity, means we’re more able to be honest about who we are and therefore simply more visible.

I think we can all agree that the above points are open to debate, and why shouldn’t we talk about sexuality? Of course, there are still individuals and societies where being gay is a big issue. We’d be lying if we pretended there was no stigma left surrounding it, and that everywhere is a safe place to express who you are.

However, talking about it in the context of relationships in general may have been a better way to do it then to single out same-sex relationships. Not having a spotlight shone on our sexuality is one of the things that for me, makes cycling an easy place to be open about who I am.

But it’s the final paragraph of the column, providing a so-called ‘explanation’ as to why any of us is gay, that actually motivated me to write this. The idea that the only reason any of us is gay is because we have greater access to women is short sighted and pretty offensive to be honest. Of course sexuality is a spectrum, and there are cases where individuals fall in love with someone of the same sex even without identifying as gay. But this is more often the exception rather than the rule.

I hate to break it to all the other riders in the peloton, but I’ve never been attracted to any of them. I should probably have pre-faced this with the classic ‘no offence but’, and I’m sure they are all lovely, but being surrounded by female cyclists isn’t what turned me! I was gay before becoming a professional cyclist, and it certainly wasn’t a choice. If I could choose, even with my seemingly easier access to women with whom I share common interests, I honestly wouldn’t have chosen it. As already stated, the world is moving in the right direction and equality is becoming more of a reality, but as it stands it’s not all plain sailing and I probably would have chosen the easier life.

One of the main fears for me about coming out was how those close to me would react, and how it might change relationships with teammates, staff and other riders in the future. The blatant homophobia in wider society is often enraging and clearly hurts, but it’s easier to ignore these people or stand up to them. It’s the subtle discomfort and slight changes in behaviour towards you from those who are closer to you that you’re really afraid of.

Fortunately, absolutely nothing changed for me when I came out within the peloton, and actually it was met with nothing but positivity. Since that moment it’s only ever been talked about in the same way it would be if we were talking about heterosexual relationships. Let’s keep it that way.
Some people are gay, get over it.

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