Last weekend saw the racing community come together to send out the message that Racing Is Everyone’s Sport. The five racecourses hosting racing on Saturday (Wetherby, Sandown, Aintree, Chepstow and Wolverhampton) proudly supported the Stonewall Rainbow Laces campaign.
The rainbow colours were across the racecourse to support LGBT+ inclusion in the sport. Diving deeper into LGBT+ matters, Jade Genther and Rose Grissell go into the importance of LGBT+ community within racing.
Please introduce yourself – who you are and what you do?
My name’s Jade, I’m 24 years old and I’m a transwoman. I’ve worked in the equestrian, pre-racing and racing world for a number of years across the country. I’ve worked at various yards since graduating from the Northern Racing College, now known as the National Horseracing College including Les Eyre, Richard Morgan-Evans, Mark Johnston, Mick Easterby and Sir Mark Todd.
How did you first get into racing?
Growing up I wanted to work in eventing as I always enjoyed being around horses. I first got into racing by going to the NRC, where I wanted to gain more experience working with more challenging horses. I fell in love with it and decided to get into racing.
What’s the journey you’ve been on to get to the place you are today with your gender identity?
I came out whilst I was at NRC in 2016. I held off a little bit as I was quite low on confidence. I then started my transition properly on 1st January 2019. A few experiences at a few yards have knocked me back a bit.
I’m not sure why but I was quite low on confidence since my surgery and transition to a trans woman. The first yard was Mark Todd’s and he is such an amazing person. All the staff were brilliant, so helpful and always there if you need to chat about anything.
I have unfortunately had bad experiences at other yards, this was down to a number of reasons. One job wasn’t right in terms of the work I was doing and there were quite ignorant views on the trans community which was regularly directed at me. I didn’t make me feel comfortable being myself. It was a hard environment to live and work in.
Unfortunately, some people in life and in racing hold uneducated views which comes out as intolerance. Education is the way forward and will help the industry progress on the subject.
How important is it to have an LGBT+ support community in life and at work?
It’s extremely important if you don’t feel confident in your surroundings then you’re going to struggle to feel confident in normal life. Racing Welfare and Racing With Pride (RWP) are doing a brilliant job creating that support group and strong community that’s needed.
In what ways does your LGBT+ community support you?
The main thing for me is advice. There are conversations and events, where you can go and be yourself without concern or worry. There’s a lot the LGBT+ community do to support and help each other.
Where do you think the sport is in terms of how LGBT+ inclusion?
A few years ago, I think people didn’t know as much about LGBT+ issues. A lack of education can lead to intolerant views which I’ve experienced when I set up a private Facebook page of myself as Jade and received online criticism.
However, over the last two years, the level of information and awareness has come on leaps and bounds. People have become a lot more understanding.
What have your experiences been like when you’ve been to the races?
I love it! It’s absolutely amazing. The first time I led up a horse was at Pontefract, I unfortunately face planted when the horse stepped on my foot – which was a little embarrassing at the time but now looking back it’s quite funny.
Every time I’ve been to races, I’ve really enjoyed myself and everyone has been really welcoming.
How positive do you think it is for the LGBT+ community that Jack Duern has returned to being a jockey?
It’s a huge step in the right direction. Jack’s a great role model for the industry to have, it’ll open a lot more doors for jockeys, work riders and people coming out of the racing schools. It just shows it’s recognised and it’s the normal thing which is great.
I’ve seen on social media, a lot of people look up to Jack which is great to see and what he’s done is absolutely amazing.
How has the RWP community helped Jade specifically in her life?
I cannot speak for Jade and she may have a completely different answer, but looking in I believe RWP has helped Jade grow in confidence to be her true self.
At the first RWP zoom meet-up, Jade did not say a word or turn her camera on but as time went on she grew in confidence to share her story – good and bad. It was an important moment and having Victoria Smith on the call helped hugely.
Victoria Smith is a former jockey who transitioned to a transwoman and currently works for Godolphin. I think having that shared knowledge and understanding, along with the allyship from other members, has helped Jade massively.
What does it mean for a member of the LGBT+ community to have an ally in racing?
I believe it is incredibly important for allies to stand up for minority groups so minority groups don’t have to, and it can also have a far bigger impact. I know as a woman, I sometimes get quite exhausted calling out the casual sexist behaviours that happen in everyday life!
From my LGBT+ friends and colleagues, I know it can be similar. I hope that by being a proud and visible LGBT+ ally, I can also help create a greater feeling of belonging and safety in racing too.
In my role, I have a unique opportunity to drive change in the sport. I also feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to meet and hear the stories of inspiring individuals in racing and Jade’s story was no different.
Jade is the second openly trans person I have been lucky to meet and learn from in racing, and I am sure many across the sport are not afforded that privilege.
And hence, why I feel it is so important that we are able to provide a platform to share her story through the Racing With Pride network and this Racing is Everyone’s Sport campaign to educate others in racing.
Beyond RWP and its members being a support network for Jade, and giving her a platform to share her story, Jade has inspired us to see how we can individually, and as the RWP Committee, do more to support Jade and other trans people in racing.
Earlier this year the Diversity in Racing Steering Group and RWP members had the chance to do Trans awareness training, as well as BHA employees in Trans Awareness Week.
As a priority in 2022 we plan to develop a Transitioning at Work Policy template for organisations across the industry to use and review our LGBT+ e-learning to see if we can update it to include more information about trans inclusion.
Do you believe that there’s been progress towards a more LGBT+ inclusive sport over the last few years?
I believe so. It’s been fantastic to see a lot more visibility from organisations and racecourses stepping up and saying we want to support and play our part in the sport becoming more inclusive.
There are now more visible allies of the LGBT+ community which is great to see and there are more LGBT+ members speaking out about their stories and experiences which allows the sport to develop and change positively.
I think one area that still needs improvement is the casual use of homophobic or transphobic language as “banter”. Mostly this is not meant with any offence but it can have a huge effect on people, especially young people who are coming to terms with their sexuality, questioning if they feel safe coming out, or if they would be discriminated against.
This is a societal issue, not just in racing, and encouragingly we’re moving in a positive direction by improving education in this area.