Scottish Tour de France champion Philippa York, known previously as Robert Millar, announced yesterday that she is transgender, PinkNews reports.
In a statement released on CyclingNews, a site to which York has been contributing for years, the former cyclist spoke candidly about her decision to come out given current widespread discussions about gender identity happening across popular culture. "There's a much better acceptance and understanding" now than when she was first transitioning, she said.
York's gender identity has been the subject of invasive speculation by tabloids in the past, prompting her to retreat from the public eye until now. She explains in her statement that she transitioned in the early 2000s. "For a considerable time now I have lived as Philippa," the statement begins. "As much as I've guarded my privacy over the years there are a few, I believe obvious, reasons to why I haven't had a public 'image' since I transitioned. Gratifyingly, times have moved on from ten years ago when my family, friends and I were subjected to the archaic views and prejudice that some people and certain sections of the tabloid media held."
She also opened up about undergoing medical transitioning procedures. "Although the end result is seen as a happier, more stable place, the emotions encountered to get there make for some very vulnerable periods," she said.
York is reportedly the first professional cyclist to publicly come out as transgender, and decided to do so in light of her next career move — she will be a reemerging as a commentator on ITV4 for this year's Tour de France, and is very excited to do so.
York's athletic history is impressive: as one of the U.K.'s most high profile and accomplished cyclists, she's certainly a sports heroine, having won the "King of the Mountains" title for her climbing skills in the 1984 Tour de France.
York cited major strides in combating ignorance and intolerance as part of her motivation to share her true self. Although there is still much progress to be made in the world's acceptance of transgender people, her ability to feel comfortable coming out speaks volumes.
Given that professional sports tend to fall behind on both queer and women's inclusivity and safety, York's status as a professional athlete is key here. “Hopefully, the way that attitudes have progressed in general towards sexuality and gender issues, then some of that understanding and tolerance will gradually filter down into the realms of sport," she said in a comment to The Guardian. “Sport has generally lagged behind in its attitudes to anything other than the heterosexual norm, in that context cycling has been one of the sports most resistant to change."
The cycling star closed her note with a bright nod to the future. "I really am delighted to have accepted this new challenge with ITV4; I’m looking forward to the racing immensely and in terms of my personal and professional development I think this is the right time to return to a more active role in cycling too – the sport I've always loved."
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