A few years ago, when I was finally inching out of the closet, I thought about making an announcement in video form. A short, three minute video. I got as far as writing the script (no, I’m not letting you see it) before I had second thoughts. I concluded – correctly, as it turned out – that my sexuality was No Big Deal to my family and friends, and making a video would have added a whole other level of unnecessary drama.
On the other hand, when British sporting hero and all round good egg Tom Daley makes a coming out video, it is a very big deal:
It’s a remarkably honest and straightforward video; I just hope that Daley made it because he wanted to, rather than his hand being forced by some shitty tabloid about to break the story.
Within minutes of the news breaking, Twitter was awash with people declaring that they knew all along, it was so obvious, etc. I was disappointed at some of the catty comments, many of which came from other gay people. Even if “everyone knows”, to acknowledge it publicly is a big, brave step to take. Bravo to him.
George Alagiah, on the Six O’Clock News, asked, “is it a big deal?” Well, if you’re asking the question on the BBC’s main national newscast, I’m going to guess that yes, it is a big deal. I agree with Owen Jones, who believes the day will come when sexuality is a non-issue, but until then any public figure coming out is always going to be newsworthy, even if Daily Telegraph commenters disagree.
There’s a lot of news articles using the word ‘bisexual’. Daley himself is careful to avoid any labels – he simply states, matter of factly, that he’s in a relationship with a man, but also that he still fancies girls. The lack of a definitive identity is probably going to disappoint some people, but give the guy a break – he’s 19, and a lot of people are still figuring things out at that age. For every gay guy who confidently pronounces that he knew he was gay when he was 5 years old, there are others, like me, who didn’t work things out until their early twenties. Certainly, when I was Daley’s age, I didn’t have any words – except, maybe, ‘confused’ – with which to label myself. As Jake Basford of So So Gay points out, nobody but Daley himself can choose which category – gay, bi, straight, other – he falls into.
Ideally, Daley would be left alone to work out these things for himself in the fullness of time. Unfortunately, he will probably find himself under intense media scrutiny. He was already on a pedestal thanks to his diving prowess, but now he is now being lined up as the latest role model for LGBT people in sport. There’s probably already a queue of journalists waiting to ask him what he thinks about Sochi 2014.
Daley will be under a lot of pressure, but this is a guy who competed in the Olympics at the age of 13. If he can cope with that, I’m sure he’ll cope with this. If the above video is any indication, he has the maturity and strength to handle whatever gets thrown at him. Well done that man.