Solo Cyclist Stands Up Against Stigma
Meet Ang Roan, 20 years old committed to cycling 805km, solo, from Adelaide to Melbourne to raise $50,000 for Stand Up Events and their world-class research to eradicate homophobic behaviour and language in youth in sport nationally and around the world. Ang has been cycling since she was 16 after an injury that tore her ACL playing AFL and was itching to get back into sport. She opted for cycling as a means to regain strength. Fast forward three years and she has ridden almost every day since! We checked in with Ang to find out why she is passionate about shining a light on Mental Health.
Often the things we are close to or passionate about can lead us to pursue something beyond our comfort zone. How is it that creating awareness of Mental Health through adventure has become a purpose of yours?
I was lucky enough to live a very happy, energetic and free-spirited childhood where I was surrounded by some pretty amazing friends and family who accepted every part of my crazy-self. When I was 13 however, my sister 'came out' to a very traditional Asian family whose views on homosexuality are quite antiquated. It was an extremely difficult experience for her as my parent's struggled to accept this part of her identity. I watched as my parent's homophobic views damaged their relationship for some time and created quite a disjointed family unit.
It dawned on me that there are SO many other people out there, young or old, that are living out their lives pretending to be what the world wants them to be in fear of being judged, or vilified or excluded if they ever dared reveal their true self.
The work of Stand Up Events opened my eyes to the links between being in the LGBTIQ community and mental health issues.
• "LGBTIQ people have the highest rates of suicidality of any population in Australia. Being 4-5 times more likely to suicide than their heterosexual counterparts.
• Same-sex attracted Australians at 14 times more likely to commit suicide than their heterosexual peers and the average age of a first suicide attempt is 16, before 'coming out’.
I'm not one to sit around and do nothing when I know that I can do something. I grew up playing every sport under the sun, and cycling especially has been a HUGE passion of mine since I was 16 and bought my first road bike.
When Stand Up Events Melbourne revealed that they were working on world-class research with Monash Uni in eradicating homophobic behaviour within youths in sport, I just knew that I had to get involved.
It kills me to know that young LBGTIQ people aren't participating in sport because they are afraid of exclusion and non-acceptance because it was where I found SO much acceptance as a young person.
What is it you hope to achieve, in what ways do you envisage it to help and/or create change?
My underlying goal with this campaign is to shine some light onto a topic that isn't given enough attention. Melbourne-based charity, Stand Up Events are working to eradicate homophobic behaviour within youths in sport through programs and research at a national and global level, so the $50,000 that I am hoping to raise will all go towards this research.
It's pretty well known now that our experiences as children shape who we grow up to be and our views/approaches in life. Riding 805km, on my own, in the scorching South Australian heat in January and giving myself only five days to do so would need something EXTREMELY important to be worth doing it for. I think that tackling the topic at such a young age can change the landscape of society in years to come and wipe out homophobia and homophobic language/behaviour completely.
How has the pursuit of this particular adventure challenge helped/changed you?
It's made me realise how progressive the younger generation is in all realms of equality and also how willing they are to show support.
It's also made me realise that the challenge of the cycle is nowhere near the challenge that people of the LGBTIQ community experience on a day-to-day basis, in terms of the struggle to be accepted by society and in some cases their peers and family. It's crazy to know that the elevated risk of mental illness and suicide among the LGBTIQ community is not actually due to sexuality, sex or gender but actually due to the discrimination and exclusion they experience.
Lastly, the campaign has shone a light on the importance of words and the impact they have on others and how important role modeling is in creating change.
What would you like others to know and or understand about Mental Health and it’s relationship to Nature/Adventure/Outdoors?
It's a hidden fact but cycling was what took me out of a pretty random, dark time of my life when I had just finished high school. I went through a weird brain shift and I lost interest in the usual things that I loved. As cliche and cheesy as it sounds, cycling was my therapy and was the only thing that made me unconditionally happy. It represented a sense of freedom, perspective and time to myself. Have you ever been riding on a bike and looked down at the crossbar? It doesn't move. If you look for long enough, it's like the whole world is moving around you and you're at a standstill. It's pretty cool. I've cycled pretty much every day for three years straight since then.
How can others help you on your mission?
It would be INCREDIBLE to reach the goal of raising $50,000 for Stand Up Events to use to implement their world-first research with Monash Uni. You can follow the journey from now until the big ride in January on instagram @goodwheel_hunting and donate using this link . ANY support financially or through advice, networks and exposure would put us one step closer than we were before, in the end, that's all we ask for. The biggest investment I'd ask all those who are reading this is to be mindful of their words and conscious of their decisions because it takes a village to raise a child.