Transgender Warning: Transgender stuff to follow!

Transgender Warning: Transgender stuff to follow!
There are now hundreds of articles, neat pictures and videos here, that are mostly trans* related.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Terry O’Connell, Auto Racing Driver with Over 500 National Titles, Had Gender Reassignment Surgery in 1994, Now Restarting Her Racing Car

Wow, what a great interview with Terri!

Terry O’Connell, Auto Racing Driver with over 500 national titles who went through gender reassignment surgery in 1994 and is and restarting her racing career. Terri has raced everything from go-karts to being a driver in the prestigious NASCAR Nextel Cup. She has received international media attention. Terri shares her life story as she faces her gender issues, explains the fascinating world of auto racing and describes her strategy for reentry as a award winning racing car driver.
Terri O'Connell
Terri O’Connell
Terri O'Connel in Midget Race Care
Terri O’Connel in Midget Race Care at 1992 National Championships in Indiana - Terri designed and built this car from the ground up”
Terri Driving in NASCAR
Terri Driving in NASCAR in Nextel Cup Race at at the Goodwrench 500
Download this episode (MP3, 73 MB, 1 hr. 4 min.).
Listen to this episode (select arrow below):

Terri’s Website Featured in This Podcast:
Terri O’Connell Terri O’Connell
Patricia Nell Warren’s article on Terri Patricia Nell Warren’s article on Terri and GLBT folks in auto racing
Transgender Support and Advocacy:
Gender Spectrun Education & TrainingNational Center for Transgender EqualityTransgender Legal & Education Fund
Gender Public Advocacy Coalition
TransYouth Family Advocates

GLBTs have their place in auto racing

You go fast, girlGLBTs have their place in auto racing
By Patricia Nell Warren
It’s a cliché that America has a love affair with cars. From the Stutz Bearcat that chugged us through the Jazz Age, to the Corvette that swept us into the Sixties, to the post-millennial SUV, cars became a symbol of personal freedom and carved out the fast lane of our civilization.   

Less known is this fact: many LGBT people have their own love affair with cars.  In motor sport, four race-car drivers have come out since the Seventies – three professionals and one amateur. One of the four is an extraordinary transgender story that exploded right in the NASCAR he-man heartland, complete with a glimpse of girl’s panties through a torn fire-suit as a top stock-car driver is hauled out of a wreck. 
To get a perspective on our presence in auto racing, we can look at its century-long history, and the myth that motors are only for straight machos. 
Blue blood to blue collar 
In 1894, the “horseless carriage” was first catching on.  That was the year that France, with her reverence for aristocrats and fine engineering, organized the world’s first motor race.  European automakers got on board right away -- Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Maserati and other marques.  With their support, grand prix became the highest class of auto racing, in a setting of dedicated road circuits or closed city streets.    
Grand prix cars developed in two directions.  First came the sports car.  From the beginning, this was a two-seater with closed wheels and the potential for streamlined style and everyday use by dashing members of European high society.  Almost overnight, sports-car racing roared to international popularity and impacted the history of production-car design. 
The other direction didn’t take off till after World War II.  This was Formula One racing, done with a single-seater open-wheel car that is very stripped down, specialized and fast.  The cars comply with a formula (rules) set by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).  Grand Prix now has a world-championship circuit, including the Indianapolis 500, but Europe remains its traditional home.   
Generally European racing has a champagne upper-class air – and no wonder.  An F1 racing team can spend $400 million a year on a single car. That famous phrase “Gentlemen, start your engines” came into use because only a blueblood or industry baron could afford the sport. 
But America, with her reverence for the average Joe and the mass-production family car, went for beer instead of bubbly – an auto sport that was blue-collar, grassroots and uniquely American.  This was stock-car racing, on oval tracks with high-banked turns.    
During Prohibition in 1920-33, white Southern bootleggers transported moonshine by car, and tweaked their engines so they could outrun the federal law guys.  On Sundays these good ol’ boys couldn’t resist racing each other in the back hills, with country music and wild parties and more moonshine on the side.  When Prohibition ended, Southerners stayed passionate about family cars that were modified for speed.  Promoters began organizing races legally, using dirt horse-racing tracks.  In Florida in 1938, driver/promoter Bill France used the Daytona beach for a stock-car race.   The first oval super-speedway was built there, and the Daytona 500 was born.   
After World War II, with stock-car racing spreading outside the South, organizers saw the need for a sanctioning body.  So the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was organized in 1948.  But the atmosphere in the growing sport still favored a redneck Bible Belt machismo. 
Because of that outlaw past, America’s automakers were slower than Europeans to embrace stock-car racing.  In 1957, the Automobile Manufacturers Association actually announced a ban on any factory involvement in motor sports!  Hard-nosed executives even stayed wary of sports cars, which they viewed as toys for effete European playboys.  But that same year, Chevrolet got brave and introduced the first American sports model, the Corvette.  With time the Corvette CR-5 would become a performance icon -- the first American race car to kick ass on the great European marques.   
Finally, when Detroit realized that made-in-America racing was a golden opportunity to promote autos and auto products, the industry stepped on the gas. 
At first the cars were truly “stock.”  Joe and Jane Average could drive to the supermarket in the same models that went screaming past them at the Daytona and Talladega and Indianapolis speedways.  But the Seventies saw a transition to radical modification.  Experts had figured out that the shape and size of the body, as much as engine power, is the key to speed.  Body design needed to manage that hurricane-velocity air stream around the car. 

Something for Everybody 

Throughout motor racing, categories have proliferated, so there’s something for everybody.  To name a few:  grand touring, showroom stock, sprint car, midget, go-kart, dragster, funny car, pure street, autocross, road racing, dirt track, demolition derbies, off-road, classic car runs.  Not to mention the rally and targa (which involve navigation and time trials).  Rallies go from X Games Super Specials to long-distance road events.  All kinds of trucks race too.   
Performance stats have pushed to the extreme.  An F1 open-wheeler can howl along at 250 mph or better. Top-fuel dragsters pack an impressive 8000 hp, and can go up to 550 mph down the straight short track, before popping a parachute brake like the Columbia space shuttle  
Costs have gone ballistic too.  Even in America, the size of one’s bank account, and one’s ability to entice corporate sponsors, narrows the access to U.S. pro racing.  A NASCAR team can spend $15-$20 million a year to keep its cars in the chase.  Fortunately there are amateur series that make the action available to anyone with a driver’s license and enough bucks to customize their car.  
Because of the sport’s popularity and its ability to mobilize big ad dollars, motor racing has captured major TV coverage – from Fox and other networks to ESPN, Speed and Spike.  Indeed, TV gives viewers a real intimacy with the race – cameras and microphones right in the cars, so drivers can talk on-screen.  Speeding cars are now the world’s biggest spectator sport, with nearly 400,000 cramming the Indy 500 grounds, and crowds of a comparable size at a European grand prix.  Satellite expands that live audience to global millions.  It’s even the most musical sport -- no race, TV show or website is complete without a sexy soundtrack of rock, country, blues, even disco and hip hop.   
Last but not least, motor sport is the most dangerous.  In the U.S., 31 drivers were killed at Daytona, and a whopping 56 at Indianapolis.  In European grand prix, one team alone – the famed Scuderia Ferrari – saw eight drivers die at the wheel.    
Some fans have a morbid fascination with wrecks – cars going airborne, flipping over and over, and disintegrating or bursting into flame.  Video clips of famous fatal crashes are enshrined on YouTube.  But the racing establishment, and most fans, hate these awful spectacles.  Crashes destroy lives and valuable cars; they’re also bad PR for the sport.  Today’s racing safety tech is making a big effort to keep up with speed tech. 
Along the way, however, drivers have been stereotyped as aggressive, gutsy, daring, death-defying demigods – i.e. straight he-men who flaunt their supermodel girlfriends and trophy wives in Victory Lane. 
So where in this revved-up romance is there any room for people who are sexually unorthodox? 
Disturbing Trends
Some LGBT fans insist that auto racing isn’t all that homophobic. 
One of those is Betty Jack Devine, long-time lover of the Daytona 500.  Betty runs, a web resource for LGBT motor fans.  In a recent interview Betty said: “The scene at the track is all about making friends, enjoying the fellowship, and passing the Crown around!  I've met more low-attitude, fun-loving people at my last few NASCAR races than at the last few gay bars I've been in.”
A few ominous social trends can be seen in stock-car racing.  As part of its new Drive for Diversity program, NASCAR wants to shed its redneck image and appeal to young urban blacks and Latinos.  A positive result of the program: a few Latino drivers can be seen, though black drivers are notable by their absence.  Hip-hop artists are attaching themselves to racing teams.  But for LGBT people, the hip-hop trend could have negative results, since some artists are scorchingly homophobic.   
Another negative trend: participation in NASCAR by the U.S. military.  With so much dismal news from Iraq, the brass are desperate to look good and boost recruitment.  The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and National Guard all have NASCAR teams.  At the recent Allstate 400 in Indianapolis, there was a fly-by of B-2 bombers as the national anthem was sung.  So the message might be “don’t ask don’t tell” at the speedways.   
Meanwhile, the religious right aims to keep a firm hold on NASCAR as a bastion of “family values” in sport.  Drivers thank Jesus for their wins with the same irritating frequency as football players.  In TV interviews, drivers and team owners talk at 200 mph about their wives and children.  NASCAR keeps scandal out of their news as much as possible.  There’s little mention of the sport’s skanky beginnings. 
Gender issues are as complex as the machinery itself.  There’s no women’s division, so any females must compete with men.  Auto racing is one sport where men don’t gain any competitive edge from the size and muscular strength that our culture types as “masculine.”  Like jockeys, many race-car drivers tend to be small and light-built.  Yet male drivers have to convince everybody that they have a mammoth muscular attitude. 
Many in NASCAR still haven’t recovered from the shocking news about top driver James Terrell Hayes.  In 1998, having competed in NASCAR’s national championship and beaten top drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart,  Hayes suddenly announced that he was really a woman named Terri O’Connell.  Sports history has its run of transgender dramas, but O’Connell’s story is one of the most heart-rending. 
Male to Female
Born in 1964, Hayes grew up in Corinth, a small Mississippi town.  His family were traditional Southern Baptists.  His dad was a race-car driver, so Hayes fell in love with racing as a little boy.  His slender build was curiously unboyish.  But everybody in town knew that he’d been born premature and small, so at first most people didn’t make much over his appearance.  Other kids bullied him in school, mostly because he was small.   
But as Hayes started go-kart racing and grew into puberty, he found that he had a painful secret to keep.  In the privacy of his bedroom, looking in the mirror, he saw that his “male urology” (as he called it later) was attached to a body now morphing into a beautiful leggy girl with breasts.  
At first, the teenager was able to hide the growing curves in his driver suit.  He went on to national championships in go-kart, midget and sprint-car racing.  But Hayes suffered intensely as he struggled to keep his secret, strapping his chest to flatten those breasts.  He began to live a double life, slipping off to find times and places where he could be “Terri,” who was very feminine and wore makeup and loved girl clothes.  Returning to the race world, Hayes would pull on jeans, stuff his hair up in his baseball cap, and resume the persona of tough redneck boy driver. 
In 1981, when Hayes was 17, he was hauled out of a wreck with his driver’s suit torn, and it was noticed that he was wearing girl’s panties. The rumors began drifting like tire smoke – first in the home town, then throughout the race world. 
Moving on to NASCAR and pro stock cars, Hayes ran a gauntlet of rumors and bubba baiting.  Now and then, another driver tried to wreck him during a race.  Even so, there was always somebody who would hire him because they wanted a gutsy and skillful driver.  In 1990 Hayes got himself contracted by the well-known Donleavy Team and competed for the Nextel Cup, NASCAR’s top series and national championship.  He went on to log a career total of 500 pro wins. 
But in 1992, he was in a serious wreck that trapped him underneath the car and soaked him with spilled fuel; he narrowly escaped being burned alive.  He thought, “I could have died without having lived as who I really am.”    
Quietly Hayes saved money and planned a quiet date with sexual-realignment surgery in 1994.  For the name change, Terri was the obvious first name.  O’Connell was his grandmother’s surname.  Quietly he developed his love of clothes into a back-up career as a designer of racing-related fashion.  When he told his family, they took it very hard.  His dad stopped speaking to him.
After the surgery, Terri stopped racing – unsure whether she could ever dream of driving again if she revealed the sex change. 
Instead, she reappeared publicly on the NASCAR scene as the woman she now was, and aimed to make a new life in the sport she loved.  “That means,” she says, “that no one in the NASCAR community knew that the beautiful 5’6”, 117 pounds, 34-24-34 blonde bombshell who was doing business with several NASCAR teams, designing apparel for Lowes motor speedway and socializing with the most important power players in the sport, was once a male who had raced in the Nextel Cup!”  Incredibly, the change was so complete that no one recognized her. 
But this strategy was jeopardized after two trusted friends, with whom she’d shared the sex-change secret, couldn’t resist gossiping to some NASCAR people.  By 1998 the blonde bombshell realized that the only option left was coming out.  To the media she revealed that designer Terri O’Connell and driver J. T. Hayes were the same person.  Overnight she became the biggest transgender sports sensation since skier Erika Schinegger in the 1960s.  A fireball of international attention exploded over her life.   
Many in NASCAR were furious.  Efforts were even made to quash the media coverage. 

The sport's homophobic,” she said.  “Let's face it.  Even though I'm not gay, they do group it that way.”   
So at age 34, O’Connell left Mississippi and racing.  Supporting herself with fashions and modeling, she settled into life as a woman with relief and delight.  After her dad died, she moved back to Corinth, Mississippi to live with her mom and confront the attitudes in her home town. But she missed racing intensely.  And little by little, some people were starting to come around – even in Corinth.  A turning-point moment happened in a coffee shop, when one of the local bubbas paused at her table and said, “Hey, girl, I’d sure like to see you racing again.”
Women at the Wheel
O’Connell’s comeback points up a fact: little by little, women have been fighting their way into motor racing for many decades – as drivers, pit crew, mechanics, even team owners and news commentators.  For the past, auto-history sources mention only two dozen female race drivers – most of them in the 1950s, including NASCAR speed recordholder Vicki Wood.   Were there any lesbian or bisexual women among those ‘50s old-timers?  Possibly. 
Half a century later, motor sport is still not too friendly to women drivers.   Typical is the attitude of NASCAR champion Richard Petty, who said, "I just don't think it's a sport for women.”
For any out lesbian, bisexual or trans driver who might think of competing directly with men in NASCAR, Terri O’Connell has a chilling observation:  “These boys play for keeps. Anybody who doesn’t think so has another think coming. Those boys will take you down. What you have to do in motor sports to survive is on a whole different level. First you need millions of dollars, and then you could lose your life.”
But some in the sport are working to change that. 
According to Ted West in Car & Driver:   “NASCAR, the IRL, Champ Car, and the NHRA all have promising female racers percolating upward.  Ford, GM, and Dodge are dicing for position in the girl-racer wars.  Tish Sheets, NASCAR director of diversity, means business. She wants Hispanic, African American, and women racers. The potential is impressive.  A woman nearly winning Indy 2005 generated deafening publicity.”  
That woman is 25-year-old Danica Patrick, who has proven her skill and nerve in open wheel for three Indy 500s. 
Meanwhile, in drag racing, sanctioned by the National Hot Road Association, women are making a major breakthrough.  Female dragsters can feel a little safer from bumper-to-bumper expressions of male prejudice, because cars race-off in pairs and each car must stay in its designated lane.   At the moment, half a dozen women drivers are high profile in NHRA.   You can’t miss the Force family -- funny-car champion John Force and his three daughters, Ashley, Brittany and Courtney.  The girls drive in their dad’s footsteps, and they get 110 percent support from their parents.  During qualifying for the recent NHRA national finals in Seattle, Ashley finished eighth  -- just six places behind Dad.  
O Canada 
Our neighbor to the north, which maintains close ties with U.S. motorsports, has two more names for the short list of out professional drivers.  Last year I heard from Canadian driver Logan “Snoopy” Chrysler, who called me up to introduce himself.  His story:    
“I was born in 1958 in western British Columbia, Canada.  My mother was African-American from Colorado, my father was a Samson Cree from the reserve in central Saskatchewan. They met and married in 1948, and had 14 children for which I was the seventh son. In 1961 I was introduced into the world of cars when we moved in 1961 to Hamilton, Ontario. As most people know, that was Canada's ‘Golden Horseshoe’ where most of the major auto manufacturers had their Canadian factories.  It was rough living for a large family.  I started making a living at a young age.  But money was the farthest thing on my mind. I was having thoughts that in 1969 had a name, HOMOSEXUALITY.”   
Already in those post-Stonewall years, Snoopy started to hint his sexual orientation to friends and supporters.  He says:   
“In 1971, when I was 13, I started racing -- first with go-karts, then smaller cars (Mini-Coopers and Corvairs), and later 7-litre sport sedans. My advanced but boyish looks were able to get me into several major stock-car races in Quebec and Nova Scotia as well as Ontario and Alberta.  I was racing Vauxhall Envoy sedans, and the occasional Acadian coupe.”   
In 1974 Snoopy got his license with the Canadian Stock Car Racing Association (CASCAR).  Eventually he moved to the U.S.  As a man of color, he ran into that relentlessly conservative whites-only straights-only atmosphere in NASCAR, so he gravitated towards the more liberal road-racing scene.  When Snoopy called me in 2006, he was 48 and living in Olympia, Wash.  He was thinking about the 2200-mile Targa Newfoundland as his next race.  By then he was all the way out, a community activist.  In a Seattle Gay News commentary, he talked about “what we can do when we can get it done and make it together.”
Canada’s other out driver is Billy Innes, also from Ontario.  Billy’s career has spanned 30 years in CASCAR racing.  He was a serious contender in Canada’s Super Series – equivalent of NASCAR’s Nextel Cup.  But financing a pro team was hard.  After Billy came out, he took a hiatus from racing to shore up his business.  As I wrote this piece, Auto Racing Daily announced that Innes is returning to competition with his Ruckus Racing Team.  They were aiming at the less spendy Ontario Sportsman series, with Billy driving a Chevrolet Monte Carlo.   “I’ve got some great guys helping me out,” he said, “and I think we’re going to be potent.  We’d like to take a shot at the championship.” 
The mere fact of Innis’ comeback suggests that the Canadian stock-car racing scene is more accepting than the U.S. scene.  And why wouldn’t it be?  Canada is where LGBT people can get married now.
Pro vs. Amateur 
In the United States, with NASCAR so hard to crack, many potential corporate sponsors are still afraid to slap their logo on a pro driver who is out.  So most of our LGBT progress is happening in the amateur sports-car category – in club racing, road racing, rallies, targa, etc. Out driver Evan Darling, who is an SCCA divisional champion in road racing, confirms this.  He says, “There are a few drivers that race amateur series ... I have friends that do (that are gay).” 
In amateur racing, finance is still a factor, meaning sponsorships and endorsements, but it happens on a smaller scale. 
In recent years, the auto industry has figured out that it can sell lots of big-ticket cars to gays. is surging as an important web resource for pink motormania.  The organization says:  “Our primary mission is to educate lesbian and gay consumers on how gay-friendly automakers might be.”  Gaywheels lists 34 car brands whose manufacturers have shaped positive policies towards LGBT employees and car-buyers, from Aston Martin to Volvo.  
Recently Gaywheels became the first openly gay team to enter a national cross-country amateur driving event. Team G.L.A.M. will race in the 2007 Fireball Run, an annual 100-team all-invitational Orlando-to-Los-Angeles adventure rally.  When the Fireball Run called for teams representing diversity, Gaywheels founder and CEO Joe LaMuraglia got in touch and asked for an entry form. Fireball accepted Joe's application. 
The G.L.A.M.  team consists of Joe LaMuraglia and Evan Darling.  G.L.A.M. has several major sponsors.  The rally starts Sept. 28.
"We relish the opportunity to show the world that gays are as avid auto enthusiasts as anyone else," LaMuraglia says. 
“I’ve Always Been Out”
Evan Darling’s story is typical of the more accepting atmosphere on the road-racing scene.
His area of motor sport is run by the Sports Car Club of America, formed in 1944.  SCCA supports road racing, rally and autocross, and gets its own air time on SpeedTV, with programs for both amateur and pro racers.  Here, as in stock cars and grand prix, the difference between pro and am is money.  Pro road-racing operates at a more expensive and technically demanding level.
During his 14 years of driving as an amateur, Darling says, he never made a point of his sexual orientation, but he never hid it either.  “I’ve always been out,” he says. 
As a kid, Darling started racing BMX bicycles, then motocross.  In 1989 he shifted to autocross, then to road racing in 1994.  He financed his racing with the sweat of his brow -- dealership and mechanic jobs, a lawn-service business.  He was also a driving instructor for many clubs including Chin Motorsports, Ferrari Owners Club and Porsche BMW Owners Club.  Darling’s grit has taken him to divisional titles, and victory at many sprint races and endurance events, including big races at Daytona and Sebring. 
Today, at 39, Evan lives and drives from Miami.  He wants to put the hammer down -- go for the SCCA Speed World Challenge and the Grand Am Cup.  He sold his business so he could race full time and make the big step to pro driver in SCCA.  In April he competed in his first pro race, the Grand Am Koni Challenge in Miami, and placed seventh. 
But there’s still the eternal money challenge.  When I interviewed Evan, he said the cost of racing his production-model Mazda RX8 or VW GTI would run around $850,000 a year.  With the added cost of a team – pit crew, mechanics, etc. – it accelerates to a million a year.  So he’s looking for sponsors, who might put up between $200,000 and $250,000 each. 
I need help from the community to achieve my goal,” Evan told me.
It remains to be seen how much of an interest the LGBT business world will take in sponsoring both Terri O’Connell and Evan Darling as they fight to move forward with their driving careers. 
Friends and Family 
To love car sport, you start by loving cars.  LGBT pro and amateur racing people today come out of a larger population of people who feel that way.
Motorsport people don’t just think cars are beautiful and powerful.  Many think of the car as a living thing, with a spirit and genie of its own.  “You killed the car,” Ferris Bueller tells his best friend in the popular movie, after the friend wrecks his dad’s red Ferrari.  There are even legends of haunted race cars – for instance, the Porsche Spyder owned by actor James Dean, that went on killing people in mysterious accidents after its fatal crash with Dean in 1955.  
Right in my own circle of friends and family, I find numerous cases of lavender car love.  My business partner Tyler St. Mark, whose passion goes to jeeps, can’t stay away from car shows.  He always notices the hordes of other gay men there.  “It’s Homo Depot with hub caps,” he says.  “The car fancy isn’t cheap, and gay men have the disposable income to spend on it.”    
LGBT people, even more than straight people, love the car as an A-list status symbol. 
One friend, gay travel writer Joseph Schmitt, recently fell for cars. He had flown to Berlin on an auto junket – Porsche wanted some journalists to take a new model for a spin on the Autobahn.  Joe had never driven a high-performance roadster before, so he felt nervous as he climbed into his Porsche Boxter.  It had an unfamiliar sixth gear.  The Porsche guy had to show him where the ignition was.  What had he gotten himself into?  
“But something magical happened on the Autobahn,” Joe wrote me later.  “ I found myself instinctively trusting the machine …at one with the machine. It’s safe to say I found out what that sixth gear is for.  While I didn’t meet the max speed of 162 mph, I did come thrillingly close. The propelling force of the engine seemed to unite with my solar plexus chakra, bursting forth with orgasmic-like horsepower.” 
Another friend, gay comedian Scott Silverman, loves cars as much as he loves making people laugh.  Scott makes the audience ROFL when he talks cars. In a San Francisco Examiner interview, he confessed, “Men are always asking me, 'How come you know so much about Camaros?'  And I say, 'Hey, they sell Road & Track to gay people, too!' I love to shut these straight men down by knowing more than they do about horsepower and rpm.”
Scott’s favorite brand would be a Porsche.  But at the moment, he owns an Acura Integra and a Toyota Corolla.  “The Toyota is my everyday car,” he said, “and the Acura is my rally car.”   
When I asked Scott if he competes in rallies, he said dryly, “Never.  I don’t need to.  Driving L.A. to work every day is a rally.”
Point of No Return
Today there may be others who are ready to come out, possibly inspired by Darling and O’Connell. Betty Jack Devine says: “I've been contacted by a few NASCAR insiders who are gay, but they are not big stars in the Sunday Cup races. At, it is our policy not to report or speculate on who might be gay. We just like to appreciate the races from a gay point of view.”  
When I interviewed Terri O’Connell in August, she informed me that she was launching her comeback, at age 43.  Her coach and mentor is Dick Barbour of Dick Barbour Racing, an internationally known team. First, in the Fireball Run in September, she’ll be lead driver in a second LGBT car – one sponsored by The Advocate.   
Next, on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Memphis Motorsports Park, Terri will make a gutsy return to NASCAR racing.  At 9:35 a.m. she has a hot date with the green flag for qualifying.  If she qualifies, she starts with the field at 2:30 p.m. – 250 laps and 187.5 miles.  The race is part of the nationwide Busch Grand National Series, which is NASCAR’s second most important series and a proving ground for drivers who want to move up to the Nextel Cup championship series.   
Most likely Terri will be driving a Ford.  “I’ve always loved Fords,” she says.  She’ll use the Busch series to catch up on her “seat time.” 
This race will likely be broadcast on ESPN, so diehard LGBT fans will be glued to their TVs that day, hoping to see Terri take the checkered flag.  But no matter where she places, that race will make Terri O’Connell the second person in sports history to compete in a sport both as a man and a woman. The first was in 1968 – Austrian world downhill champion skier Erika Schinegger; after surgery, Schinegger returned to World Cup competition as Erik. 
Inevitably Hollywood is discovering the LGBT race driver.  A couple of recent films, notably Race With Destiny in 1997, focus on the brief racing career of actor James Dean. In 2006 Sacha Baron Cohen appeared as a gay French driver in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.  As I write this, the William Morris Agency is shopping Terri O’Connell’s life story in hopes of a film deal.
Today’s motor sport keeps pushing the envelope, and it worries some observers.  With stock-car engines now at 850 horsepower and theaverage speed in a NASCAR race at 200 mph, some experts wonder if safety is nearing a point of no return.  “Every time you go into a race,” O’Connell says, “you know you could lose your life.”
Meanwhile, on the equally dangerous social track, one pioneering woman and three men have passed their own point of no return – and so far they survived.  Their wins put a new meaning into the old phrase “Gentlemen, start your engines.”
Further reading:
Terri O’Connell website and contact info, for anyone interested in sponsoring her. 
Evan Darling website and contact info, for anyone interested in sponsoring him.
Coming Out Interviews with Terri O’Connell:
Auto Racing Daily write-up on Innes comeback:
NASCAR driver Tim Richmond dies of AIDS in 1989:
Dangerous Curves, by Terri O’Connell (forthcoming in late 2007). 
The Wildest Ride: A History of NASCAR (or, How a Bunch of Good Ol’ Boys Built a Billion-Dollar Industry Out of Wrecking Cars, by Joe Menzer (Simon & Schuster, 2002).

 In 1976, when Warren started her fourth novel The Beauty Queen, she wanted continue the sports thread started in The Front Runner.  SoBeauty Queen has a subplot about grand prix racing.  For more information on The Beauty Queen, go to  
Warren has another auto-racing article in the works: following up on allegations about the sexual orientation of pioneering Italian automaker Enzo Ferrari.  The red Ferrari sports cars became the stuff of legend in racing.  Ferrari died in 1988 at age 90.  If you have any information about this subject, contact Warren at

 Copyright © 2007 by Patricia Nell Warren.  All rights reserved.

Dr. Marisa Richmond - an interview on receiving a Human Rights Outstanding Service Award

Congratulations, Marisa!!

"Dr. Marisa Richmond - an interview on receiving a Human Rights Outstanding Service Award on December 10, 2015 at the Tennessee Celebration of International Human Rights Day. "
(5 views as I post this.)


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