Gay Times March 08 - Issue 354
Michael Hill, 26, is the only openly-gay motorcycle road racer in Europe, but coming out nearly ended his career.
More from Gay Times March 08 - Issue 354
PQ Racing is all about trophy girlfriends, and umbrella girls track-side who have their tits out. If you were different, you'd get your head kicked in
When I was a kid I hated motorbikes. However, after my mum and dad tricked my sister and me into going to a race when I was five, I decided I wanted to be a motorbike racer. I pestered my dad for years and when I was nine he brought me a trial bike. The first time I rode it I crashed, but over the next few years I got better.
My dad wanted me to do off-road racing trials, but I was more interested in going fast and persuaded him that I wanted to do road racing instead. He got me a 125 Kawasaki motocross bike, and I told my mum that when I was 16 I wanted to race properly. My mum didn't want me to, but in the end my dad got his way. My first race was in 1996 and I won the North East Championships. I won again in 1997 and 1999, and in 2000 I came second in the British Junior Championships. It was going well until my mum and dad found out I was gay.
Racing is a very macho sport and so are the fans. It's all about trophy girlfriends and umbrella girls track-side who have their tits out. If you were to say you were gay or different, you'd get your head kicked in, so I never wanted to come out.
I was living two lives, my racing life, and going to gay clubs with friends. I wouldn't have come out to my parents, but my dad found a birthday card from a guy I was seeing and confronted me.
We both said some awful things, and it ended with me being asked to leave. I moved down to London and didn't speak to my parents for six months. I packed in the racing and thought I'd moved on. A year later, I broke up with my boyfriend and decided to move back up north. A friend of mine who was still racing invited me to come along and watch him race. I wasn't sure at first because I was scared of the reaction I'd get. The racing world is so close-knit, there were all sorts of rumours going around about what had happened to me, ranging from me getting a girl pregnant to my dad finding me in bed with a man. As it turned out, most people were OK , apart from a few nasty comments and I realised that I wanted to get back into racing.
I hadn't ridden a bike for about three years, but within ten laps on my mate's bike I was half a second faster than I had been two years before. My friend let me race his bike in a club race at the end of that year and I won by 17 seconds.
At the end of my first year back, I was ready to quit again because of the vicious comments. People would say things like I couldn't score championship points because I was a poof, but it actually made me more determined. I probably didn't help matters by painting my bike pink, but at least it made me stand out from the crowd.
It's also tough trying to find enough money to take part. Over the last three years I've taken out bank loans, my parents have helped me out and my partner of four years, Bradley, has given me several thousands, but I need sponsorship. Last year's season cost me nearly 40,000 pounds.
I always thought there would be a wealthy gay businessman who'd want to support me and get their logos on my bike, but I've had absolutely nothing at all.
I commentate on the sport now as well, and my plans for the next few years are to get in the top three for the British Championships, get into the European Championships and expand my team, Taboo Motorsport. This year, I'm taking on a 17-year-old lad. He's not gay, but I think it'll be good for people to see two or three bikes out there in my colours.
I had to breakdown so many barriers to get back into the sport that I love. There must be so many young gay men and lesbians out there who think they can't do it because of all the stereotypes, but I'm proof that they can. The gay community needs to get behind gay sportspeople and show that sexuality in sport doesn't matter.
For more information or how to sponsor Michael, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.taboomotorsport.co.uk
Words: Elizabeth Bradley