Published: 11th FEBRUARY 2022

LGBT+ History Month: Celebrating people who have made it easier for everyone to walk, wheel and cycle

Each February, LGBT+ History Month brings visibility to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, their history, lives and experiences. In this blog, we take a look at the achievements of six LGBT+ people who have moved us forward in the pursuit of a happier and healthier society. We want to take this opportunity to celebrate their contribution and thank them for making walking, wheeling and cycling easier for everyone.

Two black and white photographs of a woman in a long dress and hat on a bicycle. Taken by Alice Austen for the 1896 book Bicycling for ladies by Violet Ward.

Two of Alice Austen's photographs for the 1896 book 'Bicycling for ladies' by Violet Ward.

Alice Austen

(1866 - 1952)

Alice Austen was an American photographer who lived, worked and died in Staten Island, New York.

Alice was one of the first female photographers to work outdoors, independently hauling 22 kgs of heavy Victorian photography equipment around on her bicycle.

Alice was commissioned to take the photographs on which the illustrations for Violet Ward’s 1896 book 'Bicycling for Ladies' were based.

Alice’s images for Violet’s pioneering book instructed emancipated women on how to safely mount, ride, dismount and carry bicycles.

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You are at all times independent. This absolute freedom of the cyclist can be known only to the initiated. Blockquote quotation marks
Violet Ward, author of 'Bicycling for Ladies'

Alice’s documentary photography was courageous, intimate, informal and ahead of its time.

Among her vast portfolio were images of people who lived on the fringes of Victorian society.

Including those who like Alice and her life partner Gertrude, may have identified as LGBT+ had they lived in the present day.

During her lifetime, Alice was frequently looked upon as a rebel who challenged the standards of acceptable behaviour for women.

Jan Morris

(1926 - 2020)

Jan Morris was a Welsh historian, author and travel journalist.

Jan was one of the first public figures to transition to life as a woman.

While living as James, she was the only journalist to accompany the 1953 British expedition to Mount Everest as far as base camp.

Subsequently breaking Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary's achievement to the world.

Although often called a travel writer, Jan rejected this term because she viewed her work as being primarily about places and people, rather than journeys.

Jan was as ߣߣƵ Patron who supported our pioneering work in the early days of the National Cycle Network.

At 93, Jan was still committed to walking as a form of exercise and wrote about her 1,000 steps a day regime.

Philippa York

Philippa York is a Scottish journalist and former professional road racing cyclist.

Philippa is one of Britain’s most successful cyclists and the first to be publicly transgender.

While living as Robert Millar, she won individual stages of the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, also winning ‘King of the Mountains’ for both.

Philippa felt unable to transition whilst in the public eye and after reducing her appearances as Robert, retreated from public life altogether in 2002.

In 2017, Philippa resumed a public role, joining ITV4’s commentary team for the Tour de France.

Since 2017, Philippa has spoken out about the prejudice which she faced from the media during her transition and the damaging effects that tabloid intrusion had upon her and her family.

She’s worked with as an influencer, forging links to elite sports organisations, to work towards a future where everyone is welcome to participate.

Philippa’s voice and visibility are helping to change attitudes towards gender and sexuality in cycling for the better.

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Many members of the LGBT community feel intimidated or excluded from sporting activities through fear of prejudice... Having access to sport, either participating or spectating, is one of the fundamentals of leading a healthy and fulfilling life – not only in a physical sense but also for the mental wellbeing that it can bring. Ensuring sport is fun and open to everyone is a challenge, but it’s one I hope to see overcome rapidly using the power of education. Blockquote quotation marks
Philippa York in conversation with Stonewall

Rich Laverick and Michael Amatt

Rich and Michael host the official podcast of the group .

shares the stories and lived experiences of the group's leaders and members, offering news, advice, support and inspiration to get active.

OutdoorLads is a UK-wide 'friendly group of gay, bisexual and trans men who get together to enjoy adventures and activities' including hiking, walking and cycling.

Gay men are than straight men and so OutdoorLads celebrates the positive impact that exercising in nature has on both physical health and mental wellbeing.

The group offers activities for all abilities, so you don’t need previous experience in outdoor pursuits to take part.

Rich and Michael's podcast is a warm and welcoming listen, not only for gay, bi and trans men, but for everyone who enjoys learning about getting active outdoors.

Clay Davies

Clay Davies is a British cyclist and currently the UK's only openly gay male elite rider.

After surviving a near-death collision with a car whilst cycling, Clay decided to tell his friends and family that he was gay.

But he decided not to reveal this to the cycling community at first.

Clay has spoken about witnessing some racers trading homophobic slurs.

And expressed how concealing his sexuality caused him to experience extreme levels of mental exhaustion.

Clay’s willingness to now talk openly about the attitudes to sexuality which pervade elite cycling, will hopefully enable the sport to reflect and make the changes needed to become more inclusive.

And with a more inclusive culture, many more people will be enabled to meet their full potential, whether cycling professionally or for leisure.

Clay’s lone voice becomes even more significant when you consider that in 2021 there were 415 men holding an elite or first category cycling license in the UK.

It begs the question, how many more elite cyclists feel that the culture of their sport is not inclusive or supportive?

A debt of gratitude

We simply can’t do justice to these six people and their achievements and so encourage you to discover more about them.

Thank you , , and for making it easier for us all to walk, wheel and cycle.

Image credits

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