Article

Martin eager to inspire in pursuit of Le Mans dream

1 December 2018 09:00

Sport is all about dreams.

The prospect of reaching new heights and achieving goals that were previously considered beyond reach continually fuels competitors, coaches and fans alike at all levels.

However, it is a sad reality that many people feel unable to pursue their sporting dreams.

As a young racing driver preparing to transition from male to female in 2012, Charlie Martin feared her ambitions behind the wheel would have to be shelved.

Yet having achieved much greater sporting success since, she is now keen to not only fulfil her objective of becoming the first transgender driver to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but also inspire other athletes in the process.

"It makes me feel sad to think that within the trans community, individuals can feel like sport isn't for them anymore," Martin told Omnisport.

"I know so many trans people who give up their sports because of the particular dynamics of being trans and going through transition … and perhaps the arguments that come up over people having physical advantages and all things like that.

"I think it's easier for trans people just to take a step back and remove themselves from sport in transition. So anything that can be done in any sport to counter that is a really good thing and definitely needs to happen. It's easy to feel isolated and I think there's just so many huge benefits of being involved in sport."

Martin has no doubt she is a better driver due to the confidence she gained after transitioning and boasts the trophies to prove it.

A host of podium finishes in hillclimb events were followed by a third-place finish alongside Nicolas Schatz in November 2017's Trophee Tourisme Endurance on the Bugatti circuit at Le Mans.

She has since enjoyed further success in the Ginetta GT5 Challenge and has a three-year plan to earn entry to Le Mans' main event.

"I've got all my trophies on a couple of shelves at home," she added. "On the bottom one is all the trophies that I got pre-transition, and there's like a dozen and they're all kind of quite small and insignificant, and then the shelf above that is just crammed with all these other trophies and there's all this stuff on the desk next to it. That's all the stuff I've won post-transition, in less time.

"You've only got to look at that – that's the actual physical proof [that I am now a better driver]. And it's such a great way of thinking about it, because I just didn't have that confidence before.

"For 25 years of my life a huge part of my brain was focused and actually tasked with locking down who I was. Maybe you're not thinking about it every waking moment of the day, but on a subconscious level your brain is actively performing a task that it knows it has to do. And when you have that capacity to take that away, it's like unlocking a whole part of your brain that you can suddenly put to use.

"I had so much confidence, not overnight but certainly the last few years, from transitioning. I did the thing that I never thought I'd do, which for me was the hardest thing I could ever do in my life.

"So to not only go through with it, but for it to go really well and for me to be really happy and feel the way I do about my life, it gave me just so much more self-belief. It made me feel like I can actually try and achieve something and have an ambition or a goal. And if I fail it doesn't matter, but I'm going to try and do it.

"In racing that's just opened up a whole new world of possibilities really."

As the 2018 Rainbow Laces campaign continues in the United Kingdom, giving those involved in sport the opportunity to show support for LGBT equality and inclusivity, Martin remains committed to sharing her positive experience of being transgender in sport.

"I'm not going to try and fight people if they're against the trans community," she explained. "The people I'm interested in reaching out to and connecting with are the people who haven't formed opinions, who just haven't got an understanding of it.

"I think there's a lot of people who will read horrible headlines in papers and be influenced and pulled in the other direction. I think that's why it's so important to tell these real stories and reach people. There's a huge opportunity to reach, educate and make a difference.

"Most people don't know [much about transitioning]. I mean, why would they, really?

"If you're not trans yourself and you've never met a trans person, then you've probably never thought about it. I've always said to people, just ask me a question, because I'll probably give you a better answer than you'll read on Google!"

 

***For more information on Charlie Martin and her bid to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, visit www.gocharlie.co.uk.***

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