With the coming out of NBA player recently, the issue of homosexuality and sport has been a major talking point. It comes at a point where the wider debate over equality of marriage, equal rights and even just legality of homosexuality in some countries. It feels odd to be talking about this on a motorsport website but we have seen Will Buxton and Motomatters write about this issue recently, and to be honest, I have a sense of slight embarrassment to not to have beaten them to the punch. See, I’m gay, something that if you’re on my Pinterest boards, you might be well aware. It is not something that is at the forefront of my life. I prefer to focus on family, friends, my cocker spaniel, my job, my postgraduate studies and what not over the lifestyle, the activism and so forth.
I don’t go to the track to look for a glamorous body. I am there for racing, for the technology and the speed. The experience of racing. While all this may I do believe that the issue of diversity in motorsport has been overlooked it seems that motorsport is getting more and more conservative with each passing year. We see technological innovations as something to mock – insofar as some of the reaction to the Garage 56 Le Mans cars has been. These used to be the bastion of motorsport but now that is looked upon in stunning silence and almost shame. It seems that almost anything that is produced is banned and you’re only allowed to produce something that has been dictated to by governing body. It’s a sport that still maintains a strong link to grid girls, and a male dominated culture. For one, I don’t particularly care – everyone is an adult (well maybe except for some competitors) and they can make their own decisions. It does add to the glamour and show. For one though, I am not there for these girls.
It is noticeable though that we don’t see openly gay people working in motorsport. I understand that in a small group like F1 drivers we might not see gay drivers but out of F1, MotoGP, World Superbikes, IndyCar NASCAR, endurance racing and all the other major series in the world over the past decade (for example), it seems unlikely that there has not been a gay athlete in attendance. Ultimately it shouldn’t matter who they spend their time with, their colour, gender, religion or age but it does.
Oh the novelty value when was Hamilton first raced in Formula One. The does extraordinary novelty when Danica Patrick racing in Indycar and now NASCAR. We can’t seem to get a heads around the fact that they might be someone who wants to spend their time with someone of the same gender and work in motorsport at the same time.
Motorsport should be about, and for me it is about, watching people make the fastest cars and race in the fastest way possible. It shouldn’t matter. There is no magic formula that makes someone go faster. But life and the hot topics make it matter.
It matters that JC France allegedly referred to P2 cars as “Fag cars”. It matters that an NBA star makes the front page news for being gay. It matters that only a handful of Olympic athletes are gay. I am talking of males here. I don’t know enough about how women fair to comment, though with some stars like Martina Navratilova have paved their path in an earlier period. What matters most is that athletes coming through that are coming to terms with this, might not be able to be themselves for the fear not getting the sponsor or the drive.
It certainly shouldn’t affect any people that work for the sport. Any form of discrimination or bullying against homosexual people within the sport is abhorrent and I don’t know if it exists, but some suggest it does. If it does, action must be taken. Although recent attempts at diversity in motorsport has only had limited success.
It should not matter one iota. It should not matter if a driver walks into the paddock holding the hand of his partner. I genuinely believe that 99% of the people in the sport including the drivers don’t care or are supportive around this issue. I have worked in various paddocks. I have attended as a part of the media WRC, MotoGP and another various national, international and club series races and not had any trouble. In life though, homophobia and a lack of diversity has been there. I know many people that have fared worse regarding homophobia than I have. If homophobia transcends into sport – a place where people are meant to have fun, follow their passion and participate in something that their personal life has such a little impact, we should be ashamed.
All I want is for people to be able to live on the motorsport world like they would in any other job – to be able to be themselves, free from the fear of losing their job, their livelihood or bullying behaviour.
It also raises another important issue for motorsport. It is the place of white men. Women are starting to beat their way into the paddock but the lack of diversity is startling and any major organisation with a similar diversity profile would not be held in high regard. Gender, religion, race, sexuality should be something that exists but it should not be something that affects motorsport.
In a way it is funny that it is 2013 and we are now writing about this. It is funny that someone who plays basketball and is gay is newsworthy. It is funny that I can’t name a gay driver in my lifetime to race at a professional level. It is funny that people have something against this. It is even worse with people say they don’t care but take the time to read a post and disagree in comment about it. If you disagree, that is fine. I spend my working life with intelligent and powerful people who don’t always agree with me. I know this may not sit well with some people but to be honest if homosexuality and diversity in motorsport offend you that much, we don’t need you. What we need is the best drivers, the best teams, the best people working in motorsport, no matter who they are. We need courage in our diversity and we need the courage of innovation.
Written by Sam Tickell, May 2013
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