It is good to belong! Building a community of queer folks inside the community of cyclists in VT creates a space for folks to ride without having to hide/closet or be quiet about their queerness, which for many of us is a big and important part of our identity.
Why Pride Rides? For diversity, inclusion, and representation of LGBTQIA+ folks on bikes, because barriers to inclusion for LGBTQIA+ folks still exist.
While I, and many of my friends, have had mostly positive experiences regarding acceptance and inclusion in Vermont, there have still been instances of discrimination, exclusion, ignorance, phobias, etc. These can be the dangers of being “out” among a group of mostly heteronormative people that may not accept or have an awareness of LGBTQIA+ people. Things have changed for the better in a lot of ways since over the years, but society still has a ways to go in the realm of LGBTQIA+ rights, awareness, and acceptance. Having a LGBTQIA+ specific group gives us that freedom to express ourselves fully and without the fear of judgment or worse. It is a safe and welcoming space to be ourselves on bikes. This can be especially important for folks who are new to biking. To be a beginner and be learning a new skill is intimidating all on its own. We can have an easier time learning when we feel safe and like we belong in this new space.
It is also for representation. To show the broader community that we are out here! My favorite little saying with a twist of my own, “we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re riding bikes.” This can be an obvious statement of existence or a resistance to the image that mountain biking is an activity of straight white men. Part of who I am is my transness, my queerness, also I am a cyclist. We all have multiple aspects of our identities, but often LGBTQIA+ are not shown to exist in certain spaces, leading to the idea that we don’t. Cycling and sport is one of those spaces. Though, because of brave athletes and allies and better representation, that is changing! When we come together and create this community we are also showing LGBTQIA+ youth that they too can exist in this space. Another of my favorites “you have to see it to be it!”
Other than just acceptance there are some statistical barriers. Bikes can be expensive to get into. Once we get into biking we joke about the magic bike formula: N+1. Where N is the number of bikes you currently have and +1 is how many you should have. Therefore it is an infinite number of bikes. All bike banter aside the first bike is a major investment, especially for mountain biking. To get a mountain bike that is mechanically safe and up to the task of taking you to the woods can cost you anywhere from $300-$3000(even more if you want to get really wild and extravagant). In addition to these numbers, statistically LGBTQIA+ people are more likely than their cisgender heterosexual counterparts to have lower incomes, experience economic shortages, live below the poverty line, be unemployed, etc. I have personally fallen into one or more of these categories for my whole life. Fortunately, I have had some really great opportunities and some seriously wonderful friends who have made that economic barrier surmountable for me. One of the major goals of Pride Rides is to address those barriers and provide the same access that was given to me to other queer identified folks. What that has looked like so far is working with allies, local shops and trail networks to: provide demos and rental donations for folks to ride at the Pride Rides, wave trail fees for riding on the day of events, and designing the rides to be beginner friendly. Looking to the future we have hopes to provide access to bikes for every ride and any rider who needs one.