Trans Man Bart Bloem Cycled Through Europe on Six-Month Journey
A trans man and his bike has nearly completed his six-month cycling journey across Europe.
Bart Bloem, a 26-year old trans man, set out on in February on a journey across Europe that has taken him from his hometown of Malaga, Spain, where his mother is also from, through 25 counties by the time he will reach Germany on August 12.
Bart is currently only weeks away from completing his journey peddling across Europe. He’s currently cycling through Sweden heading toward Denmark and his father’s hometown of Aurich, a small village in Germany.
He’s not the only transgender cyclist making his tread mark on the road within the past two years.
This summer, Bart’s U.S. counterpart Trystan Cotten, founder and indie publisher of Transgress Press, has taken on 4,200 miles of roadways across America.
Canadian Transgender advocate Kristen Worley won her case against cycling organizations Cycling Canada, the Ontario Cycling Association, and the International Cycling Union July 26, reported Inside the Games. The organizations now need to adapt their policies for transgender cyclists.
Earlier in July, USA Cycling released its updated transgender policy on amateur and competitive cyclists.
The victory was on the heels of the International Olympic Committee’s transgender policy change spearheaded by elite transgender cyclist and runner Jillian Bearden January 2016.
These changes are huge victories for transgender cyclists, like Bart, who may or may not go onto amateur and professional competitions in the future.
Girls That Roam caught up with Bart halfway through his journey across Europe on WhatsApp.
The Road To Discovery
Adventures always lead to personal growth, but Bart wanted this trip to be that and much more. It was important for him to undertake this adventure because being a trans man and sports are two major components of his identity and it’s also related to his body.
“They both tell a lot about myself and about who I want to be,” says Bart, who earned his degree in Outdoor Tourism Management and studied Sport Sciences. “My gender identity has influenced my sports decisions along my life: Holding myself down because I thought I couldn’t do it [or] I wasn’t going to be allowed to.”
“This journey, for me, is a way to tell myself that being trans is not going to influence my sports decisions and performance, [never again],” he continues.
Bart isn’t the only trans cyclist who felt that way. Last year, despite winning her first cycling competition as a woman and for her visibility campaign for the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance team elite cyclist and runner Jillian, 37, felt anything but like a winner following the history making moment. When a flood of negative and misidentifying headlines and comments in articles and on social media and apps hit it plummeted her to an all-time low, lower than when she was going through the darkest moments of coming to terms with being transgender, she told Cycling Tips.
Cycling is the only thing that made Jillian, who is a mom of two and works at an electrical engineering firm from Colorado Springs, Colorado, feel at peace in her body during the years she lived as Jonathan.
“I could hide behind cycling. Growing up I loved being on two wheels and rode everywhere so I guess it’s always been a safe place for me,” Jillian told CyclingTips.com. “It saved my life then and it saved my life many times since.”
That’s familiar territory for Bart.
The Dream to Hit the European Roads
Bart conceived of his trip after years of taking short biking trips with friends and family and hosting other cyclists through Warmshowers.
Warmshowers is a free hospitality exchange community for touring cyclists around the world.
In January, Bart announced that he was taking the trip of his life in a message with the launch of TransBike Europe’s Facebook January 17.
In the message, he called to connect with other cyclists and transgender people and asked for assistance with food and lodging and invited people to join him on legs of the trip.
The following month, Bart peddled off from Malaga toward Barcelona, Spain February 13. He set small goals and gave himself permission that it would be alright if he didn’t go beyond that first leg of the journey.
The trip to Barcelona went well and Bart continued cycling on camping and staying with hosts in the cities he peddled into.
One of his goals was to meet other transgender people and to learn about transgender movements across Europe along the journey. However, finding transgender people and communities proved to be more challenging in some countries more so than in other countries.
“I thought it was going to be easier to find other trans activists,” says Bart.
He discovered that unlike in Spain and Portugal, where transgender activists have advanced their fight for equal rights, in many other countries transgender people and the movement is “quite hidden” to “impossible.”
“In many countries from East[ern] Europe, old Yugoslavia, basically, it’s been impossible. I got to talk with some people about gay [and] lesbian visibility, but activism and even more, trans activism, is very small and hidden, at least if you don’t live there for a long time,” he says. “Countries like Italy and Greece are still far behind in their trans rights.”
For transgender people in the countries he cycled through and elsewhere, he hopes to be an inspiration to them.
If you dream it, work for it, you can achieve it, that’s what Bart hopes other transgender people gain from following him during his journey on Facebook.
“I would like for other trans people to see that if you really want to do something, you just have to dream about it and fight for it,” Bart says, stating that transgender people are capable of doing “everything they want to and that they’ll overcome the difficulties that might occur along the way.”
Journey of a Lifetime
Some of Bart’s most memorable moments from the first half of his trip are his first hosting experience in Montenegro.
The residents of a house where Bart took shelter alongside during a rain storm found him and invited him inside.
“They invited me in, gave me a Coke and a Turkish coffee, and I could [sit] and warm myself next to the stove in the kitchen,” he says about the kindness of the hosts who couldn’t speak English, but they spoke hospitality.
The next memorable moment came while he was camping next to a river in the Alps. It was a peaceful spot close to the snow, “It was just a magical place. There were so many stars!”
The moment that completely enraptured Bart came in Greece. At the beginning of his journey he wrote on Facebook that he was excited about going to Athens, the birthplace of the Olympic movement, to “reaffirm my sport identity.”
However, it was the Greek traditions during Easter celebrations that Bart says were most memorable for him. He stayed with a family during Easter Saturday tasting the traditional foods and listening to the songs played on the guitar and sung by the family.
Greece was the country Bart has enjoyed cycling through the most.
“It’s being the best one for cycling, the cars and trucks all passed next to me really well, not even one bad experience,” he says about his two-week experience cycling through the country. “The roads were small and nice, not too hilly or too flat. The sea and countryside, the views, and the landscape is so beautiful.”
It wasn’t only the landscape that has Bart praising Greece and planning his return visit soon.
“The people in Greece are happy, always, and you feel happy around them. It’s amazing how people that have so little offer and give so much,” he says. “I’ll come back for sure.”
Bart plans to publish a journal about his experience cycling through Europe after the trip ends. He also hopes to find a career where he can express both his transgenderness and love for cycling, he says.