Dapper gents ride over male stigma

Lorenzo is pictured at the 2017 Luxembourg DGR Liz Burton

Lorenzo is pictured at the 2017 Luxembourg DGR Liz Burton

Avid motorcyclists are on a mission to destigmatise discussions around men’s health, by teaming up for a Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride in Luxembourg.

French national Lorenzo Ferrara, who grew up in Luxembourg, and US national Mark Kitchell, who has lived in Luxembourg for five years, explain why people in Luxembourg should back their local ride event on 30 September.

Jess Bauldry: What is the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride (DGR)?

Mark Kitchell and Lorenzo Ferrara: The DGR is an annual charity event throughout the world. Last year there were 94,000 riders in 581 cities in 92 countries worldwide. All riders raise funds which go the Movember Foundation for men’s health, specifically to fight prostate cancer and men’s suicide. We ride a very wide variety of classic or retro motorcycles, all dressed as dapper gentlemen. The ride is on Sunday, 30 September. If you want to catch a glimpse, we will be riding though the city at about 4:45pm through the Gare district and expect to arrive at Paname, Place de Paris between 5-5:15pm. To join us as a rider, you can register here.

JB: What prompted you to back this cause?

LF: I joined the cause last year for the simple reason that I think that raising awareness is essential.

MK: I was certainly attracted to the cause as the DGR is one of the few motorcycle charity events I know of. I also think we, as men, need to be able to talk to each other about health and other personal issues. Suicide is an especially important topic, in my opinion.

JB: To what extent do you think male suicide and prostate cancer are not openly discussed in Luxembourg and why do you think this is?

LF & MK: A DGR Luxembourg rider who would like to remain anonymous explained he had a family member who went through a prostate cancer and the whole family learned about it long after he learned about it and started treatment. When asked about why he did not talk about it with anyone, he replied that he was ashamed and afraid of how people, colleagues or even family would see him or behave with him afterwards.

He says this is part of the answer, on one side, society believes or even expects (and wrongly so) that men are supposed to be strong and that having suicidal thoughts or suffering from serious diseases such as cancer make you less of a man. And on the other hand, men do not discuss it because they do not know who to talk to and/or are afraid of what others might think. It is a vicious circle that needs to be broken and it starts with how society views these issues.

Photo: Liz Burton. The Luxembourg riders in 2017 pose for a photo on the Glacis, in Luxembourg-Limpertsberg

JB: I read the ride was inspired by a photo of Mad Men's main character, the womaniser Don Draper in a suit on a bike. What is your definition of a “distinguished gentleman" in this instance?

MK: I really appreciate this question, it is a good one. Niether Lorenzo nor myself have anything to do with Don Draper as an inspiration for the original ride. That being said, Don Draper is exactly the type of man who could have benefited from being able to talk about his problems: he was born to a prostitute mother who died in childbirth and a violent father who died in an accident when he was 10. Throughout his life, he suffered from PTSD and ran away from his childhood. He turned to alcoholism and womanising to ease the pain, but was never able to escape his past. In fact, two very important people in his life, including his half-brother Adam, committed suicide.

For us, being a distinguished gentleman is quite simple: you are a man or a woman who loves classic/retro bikes, who appreciates looking nice, and most importantly, you care about each other. The world is a big and sometimes scary place, and I believe events like the DGR bring us all a little closer together.