This Saturday – June 27th – would have been Pride London, but just like on-track racing that has had to be put on hold until next year. We caught up with Abbie Eaton and Sarah Moore – two W Series LGBTQ+ drivers – to find out what Pride means to them, about being gay in the world of motorsport, and how people can show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
What do you think of LGBTQ+ representation in motorsport?
Abbie: Organisations like Racing Pride are trying to make it a bit more inclusive. I’ve never faced any negativity personally. However, due to its being a male-dominated sport there’s a lot of testosterone about and it can be quite macho, so I think for gay men in particular it might be quite daunting to come out. As I say, it wasn’t a problem for me, and I think it’s getting better in general.
Sarah: Personally, I don’t think there’s enough of it, but I think that pretty much applies to all sports, and to life in general. Abbie and I are both ambassadors for Racing Pride, so we’re trying to help them help everyone else to understand and support people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Representation is definitely growing, and we hope it will continue to grow.
Do you think initiatives like Racing Pride will encourage more people in motorsport to be open about their sexuality?
Abbie: Danny Watts [retired British racing driver] publicly came out not long ago and that was really well received. To have role models like him is something that’s really important. There’s a massive push for inclusivity at the moment, not just for LGBTQ+ issues but also for the Black Lives Matter movement. I really think most people are accepting. I think where Racing Pride can help is with their associations with various championships. If a championship runs the Racing Pride logo on their website, someone who doesn’t feel so comfortable coming out can see that it’s a safe place. Just a little nod like that might make all the difference for someone.
Sarah: I think it will. Personally, I’ve only been an ambassador for Racing Pride for a year, but already I’ve had quite a few people – not just from the motorsport world in fact – get in touch with me to have conversations about coming out, if they’re unsure of themselves. I enjoy having those conversations; it’s nice that people see me as an approachable person!
What impact do you think your visibility as an LGBTQ+ driver will have on budding racing drivers, and how much would it have impacted you to see an openly gay person in motorsport when you were growing up?
Abbie: I hope my sexuality being visible is a positive thing, and that ultimately it shows people respect me for who I am and how successful I am as a driver before they think about who I’m dating. When I was younger and first came out, I was worried that sponsors might be put off. In a male-dominated sport a lot of attention comes from guys, and I worried that if they thought I wasn’t potentially something they could ‘have’, then it might put them off from a marketing point of view. I thought that maybe to be marketable you had to be really pretty and traditionally feminine, but I think there’s less of a push for that now, and it’s more to do with your ability.
Sarah: I think it will help aspiring drivers feel more comfortable just knowing there are people within the sport who are openly part of the LGBTQ+ community. Not just that, but that we are available and willing to sit down and talk about these issues. It’s also important to make sure everyone – LGBTQ+ or otherwise – knows more about what it means to be in this community. Some people might not think these issues affect them, but who knows, later in life they might go on to have a gay son or daughter. These issues are important for all of us.
How can straight drivers support LGBTQ+ members of the racing community?
Abbie: Simply by showing that they’re comfortable racing side by side with us, and that sexuality isn’t an issue. As a driver I’m not overly keen on shouting about my sexuality, I wouldn’t want people to go above and beyond with their statements, but something simple like ‘I stand with Racing Pride and what they stand for’ is a powerful thing to say.
Sarah: I know a few straight people who run the Racing Pride logo on their karts or cars. They’re not part of our community but they support what we’re all about. There are lots of ways to support the LGBTQ+ community in motorsport, even just by sharing relevant things on social media. Thankfully, I really feel we live in an era when most people would be happy for anyone, regardless of their sexuality.
What does Pride mean to you?
Abbie: It means living authentically, being your true self, and not being scared or ashamed of that. Having pride in who you are.
Sarah: I’m just proud to be part of the community. I was in a straight relationship for five years when I was younger, so I didn’t actually come out until I was 19 or 20. I didn’t have a tough coming out story, it was relatively easy. To me it means a lot to be able to help other people. I’ve helped a few people in difficult situations where they’ve had problems coming out to their family, and I’m just pleased to provide support.
This weekend would have been Pride London, would you have been attending that, or indeed other Pride events across the country?
Abbie: I probably would have been working! But I do like to go to the Pride events around the UK. It’s a lot of fun and it’s very heartwarming to see so many gay couples and transgender people all feeling comfortable out in the open.
Sarah: I planned to attend York Pride – that’s my local Pride – which was meant to have happened a couple of weeks ago. I was also planning to go down to Brighton Pride. Unfortunately, that won’t be happening either, but I’ll be there next year!
How do you think companies can support Pride without just making a commercial statement?
Abbie: Rather than just sticking a rainbow on advertising for Pride month, I think it’s important to consistently show support for gay communities. As much as the rainbow is support, sometimes it feels like it’s for commercial gain. Companies need to include LGBTQ+ in what they do, right down to the smallest details. There should be guidelines for things you might not think of. For example, if you have a new colleague, instead of asking ‘do you have a boyfriend?’ choose a word like ‘partner’, to avoid making assumptions and making people feel uncomfortable. It can be a bit of a minefield for straight people, knowing how to address LGBTQ+ people without offending them, so a simple help sheet could be good.
Sarah: At Racing Pride we’re always looking for funding so that we can go out and help people within the community. Long term we’re looking for investors so that we can do more promotional stuff. It would be amazing at some point to get a Racing Pride team together for a one-off race or championship.