“I came out by posting online first and my hands were shaking as I did it,” Richard Morris, co-founder of Racing Pride, says. “I didn’t know how people would react and whether people would reject me.”
Richard’s fear of coming out to the motorsport community was hard-hitting. How can something that I’m a part of be such an intimidating place for people to be themselves? After all, it’s 2020.
Racing Pride was created in June 2019 to support LGBT people in the racing community and beyond. Why is it needed, you may be thinking? Well, Richard’s own tale of bullying serves as a strong eye-opener. And, unfortunately, many LGBT+ people today are still discriminated against, especially in such a typically masculine field.
“When I was in karting, although I wasn’t out to those in motorsport, there were people who knew me from other parts of my life who also went karting,” Richard says. “One of them told one of the mechanics once and I ended up with homophobic abuse all over my car to the race meeting when I was 15-years-old.”
His story is a stark reminder of the volatile and dangerous place that our sport can be for people who don’t follow the supposed norm.
With Racing Pride, however, Richard and a team of driver ambassadors aim to create a platform to support and uplift the LGBT community, as well as improving visibility for their rights.
Founded by Richard and racing journalist Christopher Sharp, the pair emailed Jon Holmes, Sky Sports Editor and Founder of Sports Media LGBT. They’d identified that there was no platform in motorsport for LGTB+ people - there was no one to inspire and no one to turn to. They got talking and turned to Stonewall for a conversation that would ultimately establish Racing Pride.
“Racing Pride can hopefully change the culture in what that was seen acceptable,” Richard says. “Nothing happened about that incident. No one was in any way reprimanded for that. 15-year-old me could’ve looked at people like Charlie, Abbie or Sarah and gone - yeah, well these drivers are successful in motorsport. They’re gay and I can be like them one day, even if the people around me don’t get it.”
Richard isn’t alone with this negative experience. Charlie Martin - who is a transgender racing driver and an ambassador for Racing Pride - was struck by how one of her teams never acknowledged the “elephant in the room”.
“I was working with Stonewall and very actively doing things to leverage my visibility within motorsport to have a positive impact,” Charlie says. “That would involve television crews turning up in the morning. The team never once even remotely acknowledged what I was doing. We didn’t have a conversation and they didn’t say it was great that I was getting them all this exposure - because that’s a big thing for a race team.
“There was never any direct negativity but there’s a bit of a passive aggressive situation when surely it should be getting some kind of conversation.”
In all, Richard believes that inclusivity has always been an issue in motorsport.
“It has all been about straight, white men and being marketed to that,” he says. “The only women you would have seen at a motor show 10 years ago were scantily-clad and across a car. That has put people off and it has been difficult. LGBT people, as well as women, felt that they haven’t been represented in motorsport.”
And, that is why they’re on a mission to change that.
Sarah Moore, who is a star of W Series and an openly lesbian racer, says that the key to Racing Pride’s successful debut has been the fact that the ambassadors are all “very open to talk to”.
“I’ve never - touch wood - had any issues or any comments,” the ambassador says. “I had it quite easy effectively and I’m more one to laugh it off and laugh in their face. I do a lot of coaching with junior drivers - most of them either find out or already know that I’m lesbian. It doesn’t bother them and that’s nice.
“Maybe they don’t understand yet but if you have those kinds of conversations going around the team and amongst friends, then it becomes more normal effectively.”
With that in mind, 2020 sees Racing Pride partnered with over 50 different motorsport teams, series in drivers as they push for equality in our sport. However, the lack of transgender role models growing up will always remain a key element of why Charlie will continue to be an ambassador for Racing Pride.
“I could never see anyone around me that was transgender in motorsport or just generally in the kind of career I wanted to do,” she says. “The only trans people I saw growing up were on the Jerry Springer show, which was people portrayed in a very negative way. Being trans was not a good thing - you were a butt of a joke.
“We need those role models in motorsport for the younger generations of kids who want to be a mechanic or an engineer, driver or work in the media so they never think that there’s a barrier between them and achieving their dreams.”
With 2020 set to be a busy year for the trio, they and the other Racing Pride allies will continue to create a welcoming platform and community for everyone in motorsport and beyond.
And, with Racing Pride, everyone truly does mean everyone.