Transgender racing driver explains what it's really like to tackle a sport dominated by men
It's no secret that women have been fighting for years to be taken seriously in the sporting world.
Certain fields like the Olympics, accept, celebrate and empower women for their athletic prowess, but in others they are shunned and made to feel like second-class citizens. Imagine then, what it feels like to be a trans woman attempting to crack the world of sport, competing in a discipline that is traditionally a male-only pursuit.
Professional racing driver and YouTuber Charlie Martin first came onto my radar at a YouTube event in London in 2017. As part of a brilliant panel of likeminded creators discussing various pressing issues on the video platform, she was wonderfully eloquent when it came to the obvious problems facing the trans community - having known she identified as female from as young as seven years old.
So when the opportunity came up to actually interview her about her experiences as a trans woman and her passion for motorsport, I jumped at the chance.
Speaking exclusively to Four Nine, we asked Charlie about her professional life competing in the male dominated world of motorsport, her views on controversial US President Donald Trump, and what she thinks the mainstream media can be doing to better serve the transgender community.
What's the hardest thing about being a trans woman in a sport dominated by men?
"In motorsport you need to be able to hold your own out on track, if you show weakness or hesitation then people will take advantage and you can find yourself getting pushed out of position. I worried that other drivers might interpret my personal situation in this way, and that it could create problems... What I've gone through has taken a lot of bravery and it's made me stronger, plus the reactions and support have been amazing, so it's never been an issue!"
What is the media still getting wrong when it comes to transgender issues?
"Sadly there is a very vocal minority who are strongly opposed to the trans community, somehow they feel threatened by us just asking for the same rights everyone else enjoys. By giving these people a platform to spread lies and scaremonger, some areas of the media are failing and undermining the trans community. They could instead be showing real stories of trans people living happy and fulfilled lives, doing amazing things and inspiring positive change. There are plenty of stories out there if they made the decision to spread positivity instead of negativity."
What can allies of the trans community do better to support trans people/rights?
"I think by connecting with trans people, hearing our stories and just treating us like normal people. I think there is a lot of worry (in the corporate world especially) of getting things wrong because so few people have previous experience or interaction with the community. This only exacerbates the issue, because it leads to inaction.
"Don't be afraid to ask questions, I would always rather someone asked me something. Even if it's the wrong thing I can educate them. If it's done with good intent I don't mind, this is how people learn and how we help break down barriers."
How do you deal with trolls on social media?
"Thankfully I hardly get any trolling. I'm not sure why, but maybe it's because I'm so focused on spreading positivity. I don't tend to call people out or get bogged down in political debates, I just want to show how transitioning has helped me become a happier and more confident person - and the amazing things that's now enabling me to do with my life.
"I guess it's hard to knock that! I have thick skin too, I'm not bothered about a small minded minority who will never understand me. I'm interested in reaching the people who haven't yet formed an opinion through never having met a trans person."
If someone thinks they might be transgender, what should they do?
"One of the best things I did was access counselling. I did this for a few years before I actually started transition and it helped me immensely to reach a place where I fully understood and accepted myself. There are so many resources available online now too like Stonewall, GIRES, Mermaids and All About Trans.
"Join a support group, connect with vloggers on YouTube and maybe vlog yourself (I met so many other trans people this way and built a whole following), and definitely go to Trans Pride Brighton too!"
When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to be an ally for the LGBTQ community. Do you see him as an ally?
"Sadly not, I don't tend to follow American politics, but unfortunately everything I see or get sent about the situation in the US, especially the administration's stance on trans rights is frankly shocking... They are rolling back basic human rights and I feel afraid for the community - history clearly illustrates the dangers of depicting and downgrading minorities in this way."
Where do you see yourself in the future?
"Obviously motorsport is my passion, and I'm very focused on my goal of becoming the first trans racer to compete at the Le Mans 24hr. So certainly competing at higher levels within international motorsport, I'm very ambitious and I have long career ahead of me in endurance racing.
"I'm also very motivated to use my profile within my sport to raise positive awareness and have a global impact on the way the trans community is viewed. I'm doing more and more work in this area (such as inspirational speaking for large corporations) so I see this growing hand in hand with motor racing. I want to try and make a difference in the world, and I see this is a kind of calling now my media profile is getting bigger.
"I'd like to spend more time in Europe too as I missed being over in France in 2018 (I raced there for three years and have a lot of friends there), so hopefully more adventures, and more surfing and snowboarding. I'm keen to head over to America too as I've made some great friends over there I'm keen to work with more closely."
Ready to now tackle the greatest race in the motoring world, Charlie is set on competing in the prestigious Le Mans 24hr - an endurance race like no other. With a successful first test in a Ligier JSP3 this summer, and podiums in various classes under her belt, I can't wait to see this amazing competitor and advocate for the trans community reach her goal.