In an interview with LGBT blog Queerty,
racing legend Hurley Haywood says he decided to come out gay at 69 to
help troubled teens.
Haywood has won multiple events,
including five titles at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, three at the 24
Hours of Le Mans and two at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
He talked about his sexuality for the
first time publicly in his 2018 memoir Hurley: From the Beginning.
A documentary, titled Hurley, arrives on VOD on Monday.
Now 70, Haywood told Queerty
that he did not consider coming out earlier because he worried about
how his fans would react.
“It was not something – as you
said, I was sort of uncomfortable talking about it in the beginning.
But the friends that I had, both teammates, team owners and friends,
knew I was gay,” Haywood
said. “It was not something we necessarily discussed a lot,
but they knew it and I didn’t have to hide it from them. I wasn’t
worried about so much the racing community so much as the fans
accepting it, and realizing, 'I’ve idolized this guy and he’s
gay!?' I didn’t know if they’d be able to handle it. I was
conscious of not wanting to upset my fans with it. But the result –
the book and the movie – has been really supportive. I’ve not
gotten really one negative comment from anybody, and I’ve had
thousands and thousands of replies. I just have people come up to me
and say, 'I always thought you were a great racing driver, and now I
realize you’re also a great person.' That’s the biggest
compliment I can ever get.”
On coming out, Haywood said that he
decided to come out gay to help troubled teens.
“So, the reason why I decided to come
out at this late stage of my life was that I granted an interview to
a young man that was in high school. He requested this interview to
do a term paper on the business of racing. About halfway through the
interview, he stopped cold in his tracks and looked at me. He said,
'I’m gay. I’ve been bullied my whole life. I wake up every
morning and I want to commit suicide. I just don’t see a path that
I can take that’s going to be successful. And my friend told me you
would be a good person to talk to.'”
Haywood said that he advised the young
man to be true to himself.
“And we talked about a couple of
places where he could go to get some support. He left with a really
good attitude, and I never heard a word from him. Two years later I
got a call from his mother. I had this sinking feeling that she was
calling to tell me he had committed suicide. And she said, 'I just
want you to know what you told my son saved his life.' That coming
from a mother is pretty heavy stuff. And I thought if my voice is
strong enough to save one kid, maybe we can save two, or ten. Every
40 seconds an American commits suicide. Think about that a minute,”
Hurley arrives on VOD March 25.