Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Evan Darling

This turns out to be my 300th post - with no end in sight! 

43-year-old Evan Darling has been a race car driver for 17 years and has won multiple divisional titles. As a kid he raced BMX bikes, transitioning to motorcycles for a while, then graduating to cars, where he was able to make good use of his heavy foot. He is a member of the racing body known as the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA, founded in 1944). Darling’s record includes wins at Daytona, Sebring, and a top 10 placement at the Koni Grand Am Challenge. Darling, who is also an ASE certified master technician, is also openly gay. His web site declares that he is an “Out, proud racer.” In fact, Darling is the only openly gay professional race car driver in the nation.

Although he has never made a big deal out of his sexual orientation, Darling has been out since he was 18. It wasn’t an easy admission. His parents sent him to psychological counseling in order to “fix” him, and his brother Ryan joined anti-gay organizations while at college. His brother continues to oppose LGBT rights as a leader in the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation.  In 1995 there were protests against homosexuals participating in Boston’s Veterans Day Parade, and Darling’s father, an attorney, represented the Irish American War Veterans against Boston’s LGBT community. Disheartened, Darling left the sport for a while to attend college in NYC but dropped out due to lack of support from his parents.

He eventually found his way back to racing cars. He began his amateur racing career in 2002, becoming the 2005 NASCAR Grand Am champion in his division. In 2007 he turned pro when he landed a job at Ferrari. Although NASCAR is the largest and fastest growing sport in the country, it isn’t exactly known for the progressive attitude of the drivers or the fans, so being a gay driver was a serious strike against him. In an interview Darling said, "It’s a good old boy network and the last couple of years it’s been tough to get cars and sponsors. I’m hoping that by telling my story, some folks in the gay community will step up and support my team." It takes upwards of a million dollars a year to support a car, driver and a technical team, so Darling has had to take the year off from racing for lack of funding.

Darling Races in Grand Am Road Racing (owned by NASCAR), which uses a track with many curves and banks. A Grand Am race can last as long as 24 hours, with multiple drivers taking shifts in one car during these endurance races. The cars themselves are stock cars which have been modified within certain rules.

Despite the challenges he faces, Darling continues to do what he loves and perhaps makes a difference in the lives of people who may not have any other LGBT role models. It’s possible that kids who grow up in NASCAR-loving families may not have access to cable networks like LOGO. He’s aware of the impact he may have as a role model for LGBT kids and teens, and that’s why The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization targeting LGBT youth, has become one of his sponsors.

Darling has been featured in many newspapers and magazines, chief among them Out Magazine, The Advocate, The Miami Herald and Auto Week. Click the following link to visit his personal web site:

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