Racing driver Danny Watts talks about his struggle to come out and inspiring LGBT sportspeople
It’s been a momentous 12 months for Danny Watts. He retired from motor racing in June 2016 and then came out as gay this February — at the age of 37.
In Danny’s interview in the Summer issue of Winq, his first interview with the gay press since coming out, Watts opens up about his sexuality, the attention he received since coming out, and diversity in racing.
Born and brought up in Buckinghamshire, Danny started racing at the age of 12 when his dad took him to the local karting track in Milton Keynes. “Basically, my Dad used to take me every Saturday morning for a 15-minute practice session,” he explains, “and then for my 13th birthday he entered me for a one-off race against all the adults, and I won. And that’s when people said, ‘Oh, you want to take this more seriously.”
Danny’s coming out caused a sensation earlier this year, and he was initially terrified when he made the decision to go public “Before we decided to do it, that whole morning I was literally sick with stress and anxiety and worried about how it was going to go down,” he recalls. “I was actually physically sick with nerves.”
He was initially worried about how his news would be received among the racing community, but the response he received was overwhelmingly supportive. He reveals: “What I was really worried about was how people would take it, and I’m sure that there’s one or two people that frowned upon it, but I would say 95 per cent of the response has been completely and utterly positive and supportive.”
Since finishing his racing career, Watts wants to shift his focus to promoting diversity in racing. He’s scheduled to do series of talks about LGBT+ issues and his experience as a closeted gay sportsman.“What I want to do now is promote LGBT+ people within motorsport,” he says, “but also along with that, get more women out there racing to make it much more open. I think it needs to be much more accepting of diversity, which it certainly isn’t at the minute.
“It’s certainly getting better, but it’s going to be a long process. So now when I get time, when I’m not at bloody race tracks somewhere in Europe, I want to do more talks and inspire other sports people, not just in motor racing, but in all sports, that it’s okay to come out.”
Elsewhere in the Summer issue of Winq, there are interviews with Sherlock star Andrew Scott, currently starring in Hamlet on the West End, and artist Grayson Perry – his first in the gay media. We travel to Thailand and Rotterdam, get the background on the horrific abuse in Chechnya, and ask if the pink pound can advance equality around the developing world. Melvyn Bragg recalls his friend Francis Bacon, Patrick Gale writes a letter to his younger self and Russell T Davies picks his cultural highlights. Packed with insightful commentary from a newly expanded panel of columnists, Winq is the journal for gay men by Attitude.