By Martyn Gorse,
Life Changing Story
I've loved rugby since I was a teenager. It had so much more appeal to me as a sport than football - more physical and more fun but I guess it's hard to describe the innate appeal of the sport. So, at university, I started playing a bit. I was rubbish, obviously. But I played a bit here and there over the years (and while I never stopped being rubbish) I got to be a part of teams and clubs and all of those became like family.
But then, in my early 20s, I finally started getting my head around the idea that I might be gay. This was quite a long haul for me that started in my early 20s and didn’t really end up anywhere until I was about 26, by which time I was a serving police officer. I’d stopped playing rugby when I joined the police - no-one needs an injury during basic training - but never started up again. When I finally accepted my sexuality I was then faced with coming out whilst a serving police officer. I must say, from the start, that the police is not - in my experience - a problematic career for a young gay man, but when you're a probationary officer and only just starting to come out to people, you don't necessarily know that and it's a pretty stressful situation. I would have quite liked to be playing rugby again but I really didn’t need the hassle of making another new group of friends and then coming out to all of them as well. It just seemed like yet another battle that I didn’t need.
So rugby just sort of faded into the background. I did well in the police, got promoted and I love my job. But I guess I missed having that team sport in my life. But - and I'm no shrinking violet - I never really felt comfortable turning up to a new rugby club and starting from scratch knowing that I would end up having to have "The conversation" at some point along the way.
Then, in the summer of 2014, I saw that some Southampton types were setting up a gay rugby club and the idea just chimed in my head. I turned up to the first training session on Southampton Common where I quickly realised just how unfit I had become and a quick game of 5-a-side touch rugby required a 5 minute sit down after virtually every phase of play.
But 6 months in my fitness is slowly returning. I can now play at least three phases without needing a sit-down… But that isn't what's important - I have a rugby team where I can be myself, I'm playing the sport I love (still rubbish, by the way) and in 6 months I have made more new gay friends than I had in the previous 12 years.
My story is actually quite dull - but in a way, that's how it should be - that members of the LGBT community are afforded a safe place to do what they want to do. The rugby community is by no means a homophobic place and rugby is a sport that is at the forefront of equality. But who needs that one extra pressure in life?
Simply put, the Wyverns gave me back my sport.
Picture by: Patrick Hughes