Abbie Eaton: "People know me for being the fast racing driver; my sexuality does not define me"
Pride Month has just ended but support for the LGBTQ+ community must be unwavering and around the clock. We should always make the voice of those who are members of this community heard, and not just for one particular month. With this in mind, Females In Motorsport sought to speak with W Series competitor and 'The Grand Tour' driver Abbie Eaton.
At the end of the day, representation is what matters to make a real difference. As we like to say: SEE IT. BE IT.
“I wasn’t particularly open initially but as I got more comfortable with myself, I would post more things about me and my partner and stuff like that,” Abbie tells Females in Motorsport.
Abbie is among a handful of openly LGBTQ+ professional racing drivers. She currently competes in the all-female single-seater championship, W Series. In fact, the series is one of the few championships with several openly LGBTQ+ drivers, demonstrating the importance of this platform in terms of representation.
“I probably knew since I was like seven or eight but, it wasn’t until I was seventeen that I ended up coming out to my family,” Abbie says. “Certain family members were better about it than others. At home, it was tough, which made it kind of tougher for everything else.”
Abbie’s unyielding, determined and authentic nature can be felt both on and off the track. Having suffered a serious accident at the end of last season, there was no guarantee that she would be able to compete this season.
As a result of the incident, she suffered a back injury and had to undergo months of rehabilitation. But, through perseverance and sheer determination, she got back in the car to give it her best once again out on track.
"I’m quite a head-strong person so once my mind worked out what it was and I was comfortable with it, there was no turning back,” Abbie says of coming to terms with her sexuality. “It’s actually what it came down to with family members who were not comfortable with it. It was a case of you’re either missing out on a big part of my life or getting to grips with it and being included.
“Ultimately, you don’t want your family or people you care about to not be there but it was a decision of ‘this is me and I’m happy with me’ and the person that’s creating a problem is you. It’s your problem and you need to sort that out.
“As long as you’re head-strong about it, and you’re confident and comfortable in yourself, that’s always going to be the right decision.”
Motorsport is an industry that sometimes has the reputation of having retained an outdated mentality where diversity and inclusion, until recently, were far from being on the agenda.
“In my early years, I was nervous about people in motorsport knowing because all my childhood had been around how do I get sponsors, how do I go racing, how do I get business associated with me,” she says. “I was worried that me being gay would actually put companies off sponsoring me and associating with me.”
Despite the worry, thankfully Abbie didn’t experience any physical problems with regard to her sexuality.
“I’ve not had any negativity at all,” she says. “I’m lucky probably in that sense. I know there are people that have dealt with some not very nice things in the motorsport community when they were younger.”
In fact, Abbie doesn’t see her sexuality as something that comes into play in her career.
“People know me for being Abbie and the fast racing driver; it has nothing to do with who I’m with, with who I am in a relationship with,” Abbie says. “I made it quite a point of ‘I’m there to do a job’, which is to race cars.
“My sexuality does not define me, it’s not who I am. I want to be defined by being a nice person who is caring and thoughtful, who looks out for others and also who’s really fast in a car and who’s hard-working. Those are the things I want to be me! And also, she’s gay… it’s an afterthought. I’ve been successful in doing that.”
Abbie proudly represents the LGBTQ+ community and is using her platform more and more to help and promote positive change in the inclusion of the community but also, more broadly, to bring change to the world of motorsport.
“It’s only recently that I’ve tried to maybe use my platform a little bit more, to talk about things a little bit more,” Abbie says.
She’s a Driver Ambassador for Racing Pride, an organisation that aims to promote inclusion in the world of motorsport.
“It was Matt Bishop who spoke to me about joining Racing Pride,” she says. “I said I didn’t particularly want to be banging the drums, but if me being part of the group and me living authentically as myself inspires others to do the same then, of course, I would like to be a part of an organisation that helps to share that.
“If I can do some good with that, and make a little bit of a difference to even one person then it’s going to be worth being part of Racing Pride.”
Racing Pride works with teams and actors of the sector to provide them with the necessary knowledge on the subject to make their environment more welcoming and inclusive.
“I like what they’re doing,” Abbie says. “They’re trying to educate people, not in a patronising or forceful way but more in a ‘we are here if you want to ask questions, to help make things better’ way.”
The world of motorsport is slowly shifting its mindset. More and more we’re seeing teams and drivers getting involved in various vital causes.
“People like Aston Martin and obviously Lewis [Hamilton], they’re all making some very good statements,” Abbie says. “And not just for June, it needs to be throughout the full year.
“There’s a really nice drive for change and for the better at the moment, so if we keep pushing through with that then everything will start to just snowball, and move further and maybe a little bit quicker.”
Certainly people like Abbie who, simply by being themselves, contribute to a long-lasting positive change. She’s a leading example, both for LGBTQ+ people and for a whole generation of drivers.
“In W Series, some of the younger drivers, you can see part of yourself in them and their worries and insecurities,” Abbie says.
“If I can help put them at ease a little bit more and to give them a bit more confidence with anything, not even sexuality but confidence in their driving ability or how to speak on camera, how to organise themselves… if I can share some of the things that I’ve learned over the years to help them, then it’s very rewarding to be able to do so.”
After finishing P7 at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix, Abbie will be back in action at the French Grand Prix from July 22nd to 23rd for the fourth race weekend of the W Series 2022 season.
Photos are courtesy of W Series.