Before I get into the main subject, I want to make it clear that this piece strays away from motor sport broadcasting to a degree. Whilst this is a broadcasting site, if there are other elements that I wish to talk about, then I will do so.
If you have read the AUTOSPORT or Motorsport.com website in the past few days, you will have learnt that ex-Le Mans driver Danny Watts has announced that he is homosexual. Whilst the reaction was largely positive, a few wondered why motor sport outlets were covering this as news.
A bit of back-story as to why this matters to me: I can relate to Danny’s story, having come out as bisexual last year after debating whether to for a long time. It was a weight off my shoulders, as it probably is his. Coming out should never be trivialised in the media, behind every decision is a long battle that each individual has faced.
People accepted me for who I was, bisexuality is not a taboo subject in my circle of influence. Generally, in society, LGBT matters are becoming less of a taboo subject. Now let us look at the motor sport world. How many LGBT role models are there in the motor sport landscape? As far as I am aware, there is not one LGBT role model for LGBT fans to look-up to. That changed this week. For LGBT motor racing fans, this matters.
Watts’ comments suggest to me that LGBT matters are a taboo subject in motor sport. For a variety of reasons: the media attention, the sponsorship, the countries that motor sport visits that might not be so receptive, even down to the grid girls that gives off a badly out-dated impression and so on. I can understand the predicament that Watts faced during his motor racing career.
With no major LGBT representation in the paddock, it makes it difficult for people, such as Watts, to be themselves in the eye of the media and the paddock, which in turn could affect an individual’s performance. You have to make a stand, and that is exactly what Watts has done. I applaud him for being brave and coming out. The idea of stars not coming out for fear of a negative reaction, or worse still losing their job or drive is frightening.
Is it a news story? In general culture, I would be starting to argue, not really. However, in motor sport, when you consider the taboo nature of LGBT in motor sport and what Watts faced, it absolutely is news. Danny brings into the public spotlight issues that were previously not in the spotlight. With that in mind, the stance that AUTOSPORT and Motorsport.com took in covering Danny Watts’ announcement was spot on.
Congratulations Danny 🙂