Guest Blog: An Open Letter to LGBTQ Car Enthusiasts

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Jun 30, 2020 | Columns, LGBTQ | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

Cars and motorsports should be a place where everyone feels welcome. We have been saying that since our inception back in 1984. Toni Scott, a friend of ours, recently shared some feelings about that topic on the Trust in the Machine site, and with the permission of all involved we are amplifying those words here as guest blog.

Thank you.

David S. Wallens
Editorial Director


Words and Photography by Toni Scott

I legitimately tried to avoid writing about cars from anything but a general car enthusiast’s perspective. I want to hear and write stories about cars for people who enjoy them, because it is my first and foremost passion. But most car enthusiasts recognize that their favorite platforms are not developed in a vacuum - look at the Japanese muscle wars of the 90s leading to the development of some of the most beloved sports cars of all time, or the creation of the EPA and the oil crisis of the 70s reshaping what performance meant to an entire generation of Americans. Cars cannot exist without people to drive them, and the very design of our most favored or reviled vehicles reflects this.

More importantly, cars exist as a reflection of the culture they are born into. Radwood, the celebration of 80s and 90s cars and style, is a phenomenal example of this - the cars and culture, when put together, become more than the sum of their parts. The boxy designs and gridded, space-age tachometers are cool as their own phenomena, but when contextualized with the birth of modern computing and the bubble economy of Japan, they make sense in the grand scheme of humanity, and seeing how individual manufacturers decided to approach this on their own terms is its own fun.

And that brings me to the place where I write this article from. I have written once before about the intersection of identity and the car scene, and I have been told by many people that it resonated. I have always wanted to hear more queer voices in the car scene (and there are some fantastic writers out there already who inspired me, @dsgolson, @cdavies, and more among them), but I don’t really hear what I think needs to be said. And yet here I am - I am a trans femme car writer, and trying to be more visible by the day - not because I want to, but because I need to, to be authentic to myself and be able to sleep at night.

I truly need to write this. I am not trying to step into the role of spokesperson for the queer car community, but I want to write this to tell every single LGBT+ person currently scared of taking their pride and joy to a car show, or debating if they’ll be able to get support when their new project they’re eyeing inevitably breaks, that the community is - at its core - good.

For the vast majority of readers here who are cishet (that is to say, identify as the gender they were born as and heterosexual) and reading this - the car community only becomes a better place the more people participate. I can truly say from the bottom of my heart that I do not actually want to write this article. I wish it was an unspoken truth that people can feel like they can have a hobby and be their actual selves, but from experience, it is not. There are people who want to make us feel unwelcome, and I’m writing this because I think most of you - the majority of the population, and the majority of the car community - don’t actually want that.

I reach out here to my community specifically to try and relay a message of hope that we can indeed exist in these spaces. We just want to be a part of it in the same way everyone else is. Existence is currently fraught for us: “Safe spaces” have become a ridiculously memed-upon topic, yet leaving the house while visibly queer, and avoiding verbal or physical abuse for it is something that many of us have to consider for our own actual safety. The government in the United States treats us as a separate, lower, segment of humanity as a matter of general policy. We all know it, and it continues to embolden the terrible people to speak more loudly.

I don’t need to tell you that it will inevitably suck in some facets. There is a local muscle car show that features the models I grew up idolizing, and the owners are the people I grew up fearing. There is still absolutely a good old boy’s club element to car enthusiasm. After all, a car club where everyone acts like boomers is a 20,000 member strong Facebook group, and the speech patterns and arguments parodied will be recognizable to anyone that’s ever spoken to certain members of the older generation. There is a palpable fear of anyone even slightly differing from the normal demographics from their cliques.

But there are definitely groups that exist outside of that realm that are welcoming and open. We all have the same love of old cars at the core, and when you get past the blue lines flag folks and the “like it or leave” types, you find a plethora of accepting and fascinating enthusiasts. In my experience, the more esoteric spaces for enthusiasm are those that welcome us, whether it’s the forgotten bubble cars of the 80s at Radwood, or the smog-choked cars of Malaise Motors. Even without that though, I’ve found great local meets where I feel welcome. I roll up in an 80s shitbox with an “H” on the hood and that is the sole criterion for camaraderie. It doesn’t matter that I’m very different from the other owners, what matters is that we all preserved our own little piece of automotive history and we are proud of it.

And with that in mind, I encourage you, as someone who has been scared just as all of us have, to go out, meet some great people, and enjoy your hobby. You’ll encounter closed minded people as we do in all facets of life, but you will find so many great people you never dreamed you could find, because car enthusiasm is ultimately one of the best hobbies to exist. We just love our cars and we want to share them. It unites us more than a handful could ever hope to divide us.

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frenchyd PowerDork
6/30/20 10:54 a.m.

I really don't care about gender or orientation. Share my interest in cars and the freedom they can offer I'll consider you a friend.  

Fair warning though,  I'm a racer.  Since weight is my enemy ( my body shape aside)  I care little about being civilized. I rip out the comfortable to lighten the load. It's loud because mufflers weigh a lot and cost a few horsepower.  

I don't seek ugly but beauty sure isn't a priority.  I prefer honesty  in my car shape and life.  Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder I'll enjoy an honest discussion  where others have different opinions and are willing to share those with me.  
ps you don't have to " win"  the discussion to have me respect your preferences any more than I expect to "win". 
Nor is it a requirement of a great depth of knowledge.  I'll be happy to answer  the most basic questions.  Or go in depth about many subjects.  
As far as I'm concerned welcome to our group. 

aircooled MegaDork
6/30/20 11:04 a.m.

I can generally say, from my experience in car shows and Cars and Coffee's, no one gives a flying F who you love...

...but if you show up with a something other than a Porsche engine in a Porsche, at a Porsche meeting... watch yourself. wink

I am of course in CA, which can be a bit "different", but I find in general, in all parts of the US, reasonable people, car people, just care about the car.

That said, there are a-holes in pretty much any group you can define, so always be aware of that.

slowbird SuperDork
6/30/20 11:16 a.m.

If I may quote a section that I think will resonate here:

"I can truly say from the bottom of my heart that I do not actually want to write this article. I wish it was an unspoken truth that people can feel like they can have a hobby and be their actual selves, but from experience, it is not. There are people who want to make us feel unwelcome, and I’m writing this because I think most of you - the majority of the population, and the majority of the car community - don’t actually want that."


I think that speaking generally, GRM readers, forum users, competitors, and fans are good people. It's not the people here who want to marginalize or keep people out. But it is an unfortunate fact that those people do exist, and it's important that we don't try to sweep it under the rug.

Welcoming and accepting those who are different from us is not only the right thing to do, it's crucial for our hobby to survive.

imgon HalfDork
6/30/20 11:52 a.m.

Thanks to the author for writing the article. My experience has been that in almost any group there will be people who are offended/bothered by almost anything, they are typically loudmouth, ill-informed people and should be ignored, usually easier said than done. The rest of us just want to share the hobby we love with other people. Between the cars shows and track events I go to I see more people that will go out of their way to help a fellow enthusiast. Did your show car overheat in traffic on the way into the show, I bet 20 people will stop and offer to help. I suppose that is the same for many different groups, motorcyclists stop and help each other, same with boaters.  Maybe if the general population got a hobby, we would all get along better?  I have never understood how one person's vehicle type/beliefs/habits/sexuality/etc can possibly allow for someone else to say to that their vehicle type/beliefs/habits/sexuality/etc is wrong or bad. Unless your hobby/belief/etc causes me harm what business is it of mine what you do in your free time. Seriously, it seems like now more than ever we need to stop looking at each other as different and see each other as fellow humans trying to get through their day just like us. Probably preaching to the choir here as we are a pretty open minded group. 

Nice to see this-and that Aerodeck looks awesome.

Patrick (Forum Supporter)
Patrick (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/30/20 12:24 p.m.

I like Toni a lot.  yes

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/30/20 12:53 p.m.

In reply to CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter) :

Look for Toni's Aerodeck in the August issue of GRM.

Matt B (Forum Supporter)
Matt B (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
6/30/20 1:06 p.m.

David & GRM - thanks for giving this content a platform.

Toni - welcome and hope you stick around the asylum.  Myself and I'll gander the vast majority here will back you up on your statements.  LGBT participation should be a non-issue, but I realize it isn't for some people.  For what it's worth, most of us don't tolerate that E36 M3.  

Also, I'd like to see a build thread on that Honda at some point.  That thing looks awesome.

Edit - David ninja'd me! Looking forward to the feature.

RPMChris New Reader
6/30/20 1:30 p.m.

David and GRM, congrats!

Toni, as the author of the SCCA's Welcoming Environment statement (2018) and Code of Member Conduct (2019), plus the recent Social Media & Logo Usage and Conduct Unbecoming a Member policies (2020), I'm pleased you shared your story as a car enthusiast. It all starts with respect. And as the proud father of a daughter who came out just a few years ago, I applaud your courage to live your best life and most honest and authentic version of yourself. It all ends with love.

Chris Robbins, Director of Member & Region Services, Sports Car Club of America.

mad_machine (Forum Supporter)
mad_machine (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/30/20 2:37 p.m.

No fear here, either from me not accepting you or to me not accepting you.  I am proud to know and love many members of the LGBTQ movement,  to me they are my brothers and sisters just like everyone on this forum us.  We all share this earth, we share our pride, our accomplishments, and our sadness and failures.  Anybody who says otherwise has a few issues of their own to work out.

Thank you for the article,  Unlike Matt I am going to welcome you out of the Asylum, there is a lot less crazy in here than out there in the "real world"

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