By Alex Ballinger published
Philippa York has spoken out about the struggle of balancing being LGBT and competing in elite sport.
York, a retired Tour de France stage winner and journalist, is campaigning for more inclusion in sport as part of the Rainbow Laces movement, run by charity Stonewall.
The campaign involves LGBT champions from a range of sports talking about their experiences and calling for those involved in sport to ensure a welcoming environment from all.
Stonewall’s director of sport, Robbie de Santos, said: “At a time when society feels increasingly divided, sport has this unique ability to bring people together from all walks of life. That’s why it’s so inspiring to see more and more sports come together each year to support Rainbow Laces.
“We can’t just rely on LGBT people to make sports more inclusive, we all have to play our part. While wearing a simple shoelace might seem like a small gesture, for LGBT people it’s a powerful symbol of acceptance.
“If you love sport and care about equality, then join us and take responsibility for making LGBT people feel welcome. The more players, fans, clubs and organisations that stand up for equality, the sooner we reach a place where all LGBT people, from fans to players, are accepted without exception.”
According to Stonewall research, 43 per cent of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people think public sporting events aren’t welcoming for them.
In a column for the i news website transgender woman York, now 61, reflected on her time racing in the professional peloton in the 1980s and 1990s.
She said: “As a professional athlete, I felt my career as a cyclist was way too complicated to start transitioning. I weighed up my options over the course of the year and decided to transition when my career had finished. I just had to bury it.”
York, who won the King of the Mountains classification in the 1984 Tour de France as Robert Millar, retired from racing in 1995 but didn’t come out publicly as transgender until 2017, 14 years after she transitioned.
The Rainbow Laces campaign, which runs from Friday (November 22) until Sunday, December 8, encourages fans and athletes to don multicolour shoelaces to show their support for the initiative.
Other sporting heroes working with Stonewall include Ryan Atkin, the first openly gay football referee, and race walker Tom Bosworth.
Football clubs across Britain are also joining in with both all Premier League squads and the women’s Super League supporting Rainbow Laces.
Alex is the digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter and now as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output.
Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) and joining CW in 2018, Alex has covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.
Away from journalism, Alex is a national level time triallist, avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.