I admit that the charms of NASCAR (or any auto racing) have always eluded me, but I did like the analogy of why one gay Atlanta drag queen, Betty Jack Devine, loves the sport.
“Part of what I like about it is the same things I love about opera,” Devine told the Southern Voice. “I’ve been into opera longer than NASCAR, but there is a similarity between something really big and really loud. For the people who don’t get it, it’s like ‘What are you doing? What is going on here?’ ”
The Voice ran an article on NASCAR and its gay fans in advance of a big race in Atlanta this weekend.
In NASCAR history, most of the faces in the stands belonged to white men, but that is beginning to change. In 2000, NASCAR began a much publicized “Drive for Diversity,” a program meant to open doors for minority drivers and crewmembers. But NASCAR doesn’t include sexual orientation or gender identity in the definition of the word “Diversity.” It refers only to race and gender, according to Andrew Giangola, NASCAR's director of business and multicultural communications.
“The program is designed to find opportunities for female and minority drivers, and certainly the sexual orientation is up to the driver,” Giangola says. “We don’t inquire about the sexual orientation of any of our drivers.”
Not only does NASCAR not follow a “Don’t Ask” policy, but once told, they seem not to notice. Giangola says out of all of NASCAR’s sanctioned series, which gets into the hundreds because NASCAR sanctions many local short tracks like Dixie Speedway in Woodstock, there are no openly gay drivers.
The article looked at people like openly gay driver Evan Darling (who races in a developmental series) and notes there have never been any openly gay NASCAR drives (aside from the jokes about Jeff Gordon). But this is no different from the rest of pro sports, where gay jocks stay deep in the closet while competing. Gay NASCAR fans are an audience, as the site Gaytona.com can attest. –Jim Buzinski
Hat tip to Matt Hennie, who writes a gay sports blog in Atlanta.