This piece was written by Danny Watts, who is a recently-retired racing driver. He has a long and illustrious career, including winning the legendary Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race.
There isn’t any one moment that stands out in my mind as the moment I realized I would need to live in the closet if I wanted my motorsport career to go anywhere; it was just a general feeling I got. There were enough gay jokes and homophobic slurs to go around, and I felt like if I lifted my head out of the trenches, I’d be immediately annihilated.
All the other guys in the paddock had girlfriends, so I got one to blend in. When that relationship ended, I got another one, and so I continued pretending to be straight for seventeen years. I knew from quite young that I preferred gay porn to straight, but kept that side of my life hidden to avoid upsetting people in my team, people in racing, and the wider public.
Staying hidden was nothing but torture and pain. I needed to lie and womanize – and I was one of the worst of the womanizers in my over-compensation to maintain the façade of heterosexuality – just to keep up the front. I couldn’t speak to or make friends with other people like me for fear that someone would notice and connect the dots.
I fought my own lie even as I was fighting to keep it a secret. I’d cross-dress in private, and wear market-segmented gay fashion under my street clothes. Eventually, something in me flipped, and I couldn’t keep it in any more. I came out to my wife, who told me she’d known I was gay for ages and she was happy I’d finally come out. We started the process of an amicable divorce while working to create the least impact possible on our son’s life.
From there, my ability to keep it secret slowly unravelled. I came out to more and more people in my private life, which went well for the most part. I even got up the courage to wear a Pride bracelet and a pendant with the gay man logo to the track, and started hanging out with the fun people who noticed and commented on my jewelry in the autograph queue.
Being out to my immediate circle has made me feel far more comfortable with myself. I have so much more mental energy, now that I’m not constantly keeping track of the burdensome, decades-old lie. To quote Ash Beckham, “no matter what your walls are made of, a closet is no place for a person to live.”
There are trolls in the motorsport community who could very well rear their heads to try silence me, but there’s a group of researchers keeping track of my twitter mentions as I come out to help inform other queer racers wanting to come out. Their opinion no longer matters to me, though. I no longer need to kow-tow to sponsors; a bad reaction no longer impacts on my ability to earn.
As I write this, my ‘coming out’ interview with a racing journalist is pending publication. I have no idea the kind of response I’ll get to that article. I hope that there are a few people who are supportive. If the response I’ve had from the queer motorsport community thus far is any gauge, I feel hopeful that I’ll find a supportive group to start driving change for my queer siblings in the sport I love.