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Trans racer looks to break barriers at 24 Hours of Le Mans

After joining the Rainbow Laces campaign, Charlie Martin attempts to become the first trans athlete to compete at the famous endurance race.

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Charlie Martin
Paola Depalmas

One of the best aspects about stories of trans athlete pioneers is that they sometimes encompass several inspirational tales simultaneously. By itself, the story of breaking barriers in a given sport is already a thrilling tale.

But as The Guardian’s recent story on trans auto racer Charlie Martin demonstrates, such a story becomes exponentially more inspiring when combined with the narrative of how she came to accept and love her true self.

Charlie Martin Courtesy of Charlie Martin via Go Charlie website

Martin is looking to become the first trans driver to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an annual day-long endurance racing competition held in France. Earlier this year, Martin’s quest took a step back when she ran out of funding. But to provide a promotional boost to her campaign, Martin revealed that she recently joined up with Great Britain’s Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign celebrating LGBTQ athletes in sport.

She explained the significance of this moment to The Guardian’s Giles Richards:

“I am trying to create a positive change on society. To inspire other people to live without fear and live with their true selves, to take those steps on their own journey. Working with Stonewall really helps...I am very proud to be their first sport champion from motor sport. It is a huge opportunity to do good.”

Charlie Martin
Paola Depalmas

As Martin’s life story shows, she’s already done a lot of good just by demonstrating what someone can accomplish by accepting who they are. Richards’s story relates the harrowing life journey she took when discomfort with her birth gender drove her to the brink of suicide.

Thankfully, the example of transgender model Caroline Cossey showed Martin the life she could one day have for herself. In reading Cossey’s tale, Martin told The Guardian, “I realized it was possible for someone to be born one gender and identify as another and change that. I realized: this is me.”

According to Richards, it still took a number of years for Martin to accept who she was and she threw herself deeper and deeper into racing to try to ignore the feelings telling her who she was meant to be. Finally, she made the life affirming decision to pause her racing career and transition:

“When the person looking back at you in the mirror suddenly feels like you, it is something quite profound.”

Nothing sums up the life-affirming benefits of living your truth better than that.

Although Martin had a bit of trepidation about returning to racing as a trans woman, she found an “overwhelmingly positive” welcome awaiting her in her sport. And now she has her eyes set on one of its pinnacles.

Looking back on the last few years of her extraordinary life, Martin declared, “I completed the biggest challenge of my life and it was an incredible feeling. So I thought, ‘What is next that seems insurmountable that I can have a go at?’”

That’s the outlook necessary to be a champion.

Charlie Martin Courtesy of Charlie Martin via Go Charlie website