Our big fans

One of the most memorable quotes from Queer as Folk comes from a supporting character. When introduced to a lesbian couple, Daphne says: “I’m not a lesbian but I’m a big fan.” Unfortunately you do not see much of Daphne throughout the series as it is focused on the LGBT characters and a few of their enemies.

Do we, the LGBT people, pay enough attention to the straight fans of our community?

The world of today often allows us to choose who we want to be with and what we want to read and hear. For sure, you have to earn your living and do your job even if it is a pain in the neck at times and you also usually do not ignore your family. That said, the internet and social media as well as bars, cafes and stores in many countries allow you to spend your free time in a “gay ghetto” if you want to. However, I believe that you lose a lot if you spend time only with people, who are just like you.

There is no doubt that we need Ellen DeGeneres, Dustin Lance Black, Tom Daley, Davey Wavey and Brent Everett. We need ILGA, Stonewall and Transgender Europe. We need lawyers and human rights activists, who strive for equal marriage and anti-discrimination laws. But it is as important to have straight friends, who will not wave the rainbow flag but still stand by our community and make us feel comfortable. And these friends can be found anywhere, including the F1 community.

I am happy to have met a lot of heterosexual F1 fans from the Netherlands, the UK, India and other parts of the world, who are supportive of LGBT rights and oppose any policies that discriminate people on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. I am proud to call these people my friends even if I have never met them in person. I was positively surprised by the amount of support that I got when I posted my thoughts on these issues on F1 Fanatic. Of course, there have been other reactions as well, but hey, even LGBT people have different views on their own rights.

I guess there are people, who perfectly agree with me on LGBT rights but are irritated by some of my views on F1. But that is how it should be. I would much rather spend my time arguing why I think that Rosberg is better than Webber than replying to “I have nothing against gays BUT…” for a thousand times.

F1 journalists and bloggers have not been talking much about LGBT-related issues but there are a few encouraging exceptions. Will Buxton had a nice article about diversity last year, RichardsF1 published an in-depth analysis of the career of the only known gay F1 driver, a Jalopnik contributor did not mince words as he condemned Ecclestone’s homophobia and F1 Fanatic have often included LGBT-related articles or comments in their round-ups. The latter website is very special to me. The owner of F1 Fanatic is probably the liberals’ answer to Bernie Ecclestone, that is, he is a guy, who can get things done but without being a dick.

If you wanted to donate money to help LGBT people, you would think of human rights organisations at first. But I believe that a donation to someone, who is no LGBT rights activist but openly supports us, is not less worthy. Our big fans can reach people, who do not follow the likes of Stop Homophobia on Twitter. They use their money and efforts to make this world a better place. They help create an environment where everyone feels safe, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

And it is what we all want, isn’t it?


What does it feel like to be a gay F1 fan?

I have often thought about the connection between my sexuality and the sport that has been my biggest passion since 1997. Interestingly, I started realising that I was “different” at about the same time when I discovered F1.

Thanks to the internet, I have met many gay and bisexual motorsport fans over the last years so now I know that I am not the only gay guy, who prefers F1 to figure skating and diving, which are much more often associated with homosexuality.

One of my American friends runs a website and a podcast for gay motorsport (mainly NASCAR) fans, queers4gears.com. He says that he wants to bring new fans to the sport. It certainly is an interesting concept. The barriers keep falling and just like (most) people have come to understand that God created women not only for the kitchen, people are starting to realize that gay men have very different interests.

I believe that your sexuality has impact on how you see the world, including F1. For instance, I can get quite emotional when watching F1 or talking about it. I have always been interested in the emotional side of the sport, more than in the technical stuff. To me, F1 serves also as an escape from the world, which is not always a nice place to be if you are gay and live in a former Soviet Republic. That said, all these things could be said about a lot of straight F1 fans, too.

For sure, F1 drivers are young, fit and good-looking men and I notice that. But I do not watch F1 because of hot drivers and I never choose my favourite F1 drivers based on their looks. Well, I follow F1_Hotties on Twitter and cute drivers will catch my eye but there are at least one hundred more important reasons why I love F1. When I see drivers standing on the podium or doing interviews, I do not think of them as hunks, I think of them as human. For the record, I also do not want grid girls to be replaced by grid boys.

It would be good to see a couple of openly gay drivers in F1, just like it would be nice to see Chinese F1 drivers, female F1 drivers and transgender F1 drivers. I think F1 would profit from more diversity but it is not an end in itself. Drivers should be in F1 on merit, period. However, it is important to send a clear message that everyone is welcome in F1, including the LGBT people.

I am not happy to read rather homophobic remarks from Bernie Ecclestone, Niki Lauda or Stirling Moss even though that does not mean that I do not appreciate the great things that these men have done in / for the sport. People will always have different opinions but I am missing contrary statements where an F1 driver, a team owner or Jean Todt would say: “I am with the LGBT community and I fully support equal rights for everyone”. I am sure that most people involved in F1 are not homophobic but it would be nice to see some open support.

I would like to see FIA, FOM and the teams taking a more proactive approach to supporting human rights. When you google “F1 gay”, you should find something better than news that Ecclestone supports Putin on gay rights issue or that Lotus fired their PR chief because of a gay kiss tweet.

I do care about lack of gay rights in some of the countries that host F1 races, such as Malaysia or Russia. What is more, if a country discriminates LGBT people, it always discriminates several other groups of society, too. F1 should not be afraid to talk about human rights just like it was not afraid to stand up against racism after Lewis Hamilton had been subjected to racist abuse. If you ignore a problem, it sooner or later comes back and bites you anyway.

Nevertheless, while I pay more attention to some aspects of F1 than the average spectator, I do not think that I am that much different from the other fanatics. Just like them, I love nothing more than being in the grandstands; I read F1 news every day, form my opinions and cannot wait for the next race to come.

I feel attracted to men. Still, if anyone asked me if I was gay, I would tell them: “No, I am a Formula 1 fan.”