Belgian Cyclist Justin Laevens Comes Out: 'I Want to Be an Example'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday January 8, 2021

This year's Belgian Cyclo-cross National Championships are set to take place this weekend, but pro cyclist Justin Laevens has already burst out of the gate as the first Belgian pro athlete in his sport to come out, Cycling News reports.

His message? "I want to set an example," especially for other pro athletes who might be LGTBQ.

The 19-year-old cyclist, who rides for Proximus-AlphaMotorhomes-Doltcini, revealed that he is gay in an interview with the Dutch-language Belgian site He took note of a dearth of out pro cyclists, telling the site that he doesn't know anyone among his peers who is openly gay, VeloNews reports.

Laevens shared that when it came to publicly embracing the truth about himself, he had been "had been thinking about it for two years" and had concerns about "the reactions of bigger riders or teams, that they would look at me differently, but I don't think that's the case."

Laevens said that his family had been supportive and encouraged him to embrace authenticity, recalling that "My parents were very positive about it."

Cycling News noted that "an estimated six percent of Europeans identify as LGBTQ and over three percent are gay." Still, despite these demographic facts, "there have been surprisingly few male pro cyclists to come out as gay." The article also recalled that other male "sports stars like Greg Louganis, Jason Collins and Brian Boitano came out after retiring."

"In contrast," the article pointed out, "the women's peloton has a long history of having openly gay riders."

The sports world has been slow in opening up when it comes to LGBTQ athletes, but 2020 saw several men from a variety of sports come out as gay, bi, or pansexual, including Canadian college hockey star Brock Weston, fellow Canadian hockey player Yanic Duplessis, rugby star (and boy band member) Levi Davis, Swiss wrestler Curdin Orlik, and British soccer player Matt Morton, among others.

Laevens competes in the cycling championship this Sunday, January 10, in the Flemish province of Meulebeke.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.