ONE 6 • Spoiled for Sports?

I was naïve kid, raised in a very conservative family. Thoughts of being anything but straight was never up for consideration.

At age 8 I was sent off to Preparatory (boarding) School — where I did not have too many problems, despite my disinterest in sports and being quite chubby. At 13, I was moved further away from home in the Highlands of Scotland to Uppingham for a very rough 5 years. The bullying began as more of the name-calling psychological type, but escalated to nightime in the dorm just after lights out: without warning, you could be “lamp-posted” — your bed would be lifted vertically up on its end with you in it. The toughest part about it all was the fact that my bullies were all around 24/7; you could not go home or get away.

Epithets like “faggot”, “gay” and “sheep shagger” became the norm. As with a lot of young people, I would react in frustration, which only made things worse … sometimes slamming the door to my small study room in tears. For me, it was a sheer living hell. Hating sport did not help at all. It was all a big vicious cycle: I did not like sport because I wasn’t allowed to have any fun — the bullies had a go at me because I did not like sport. The Housemaster in charge of the boys boarding house was not much help. He told me to “stop reacting” and did little to stop the bullying. Confiding in him made it worse still, an added another name to the bullies’ arsenal, being branded a “grass”.

I used to hate going back to school following holidays and Sunday breaks. My main solace at school was escaping to the woodwork shop where I designed and built things like chairs and bookcases. By my 3rd year, several other boys had left due to the bullying. It helped me to know that, at least, the option was available to me. In the end I decided to stick out my remaining time there, as I felt I would be just as likely to be bullied at another school. After I left following A-levels (all of which I failed), I did hear from friends that I’d actually earned respect from a lot of the guys for sticking it out. During all of this I did not realise what “gay” was, though I did have some thoughts for the same sex. However, in Thatcher’s Britain during the 1980’s, there was not much support for guys like me.

It was not until I got to Napier University as a mature student did I find education fun, sports a lot of fun and realised that I was gay. Since then I’ve not looked back, and I now represent Great Britain as one of two International Baseball Umpires. I’m an avid cyclist, paraglider, hiker and outdoorsman. I’ve officiated at games in 11 countries around the world and will be umpiring the match on 4th Oct between the Great Britain Baseball Team vs the Bangers (Marcus Trescothick testimonial baseball team with past and present members of the England Cricket team) in Taunton. I wonder what those other guys are up to

—TH