Children’s author: I was Eton’s only openly gay student
A childen’s author who was once one of the only openly gay schoolboys at Eton College has praised the institution.
Piers Torday, who was last year awarded the Guardian children’s fiction prize this month for book The Dark Wild, attended the institution – considered the most elite school in the country – in the 1980s.
He spoke to the Daily Beast about being the only openly gay student at the time – out of 1500 pupils.
Mr Torday said: “There was some sniggering, but there was certainly no upsetting or traumatic bullying.
“What there were instead, because of course it was bloody Eton, were lots of quite intense intellectual arguments, more like the kind of political arguments you would see being played out about homosexuality – ‘Is it natural? Is it right?’
“By and large I was so lucky because everyone at school was pretty supportive. Of course I wasn’t happy at times, and the way I came out was kind of by mistake.”
“I just told someone. We were out rowing or something and I told him without really thinking; is this the right person to tell? Is he ready?
“I recall myself how fast the news spread through the school.
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“People’s response was curiosity. I didn’t get one classic, ‘You’re a faggot’, there was none of that.
“In the end it was a very happy experience but if I’d thought about it a bit more I probably would have been a bit more cautious about it.
“But by and large, what I’ve always thought about Eton is that people were very supportive, given that it was late 80s, early 90s and the papers were full of headlines about people battling to block the age of consent and AIDS.”
Mr Torday is now head of a club for gay Eton alumni – the Dragonflies.
He said: “Now we’ve got someone who left Eton in 1946 and somebody who left Eton in 2012. There are kids at the school now who are basically out.”