Let’s talk about Tom Daley coming out. For those of you who don’t know (I’m assuming a possibility that the media storm about it has only been in the kind of online circles I travel in) Tom Daley is an Olympic Diver from the UK who came out this week in a very sweet little video (link has a transcript if you don’t have patience for a video). I’m very proud of him for his brave act, but I’m more interested in the responses I’m seeing in the media and in comments I’m seeing on stories about this. Really I just want to address the common responses I’m seeing.
1) “It’s no one’s business who he loves.” While in an ideal world this is true. Tom says it himself in his video that in a perfect world he wouldn’t have to do this. I wish he didn’t. But he does because all over the world people are still persecuted, punished, stigmatized, shunned and even killed because of who they love. Coming out is the only way to combat that. When your family, friends, and public figures that you admire make public statements about who they love it makes the entire idea of queerness less threatening. It opens a conversation to help everyone understand that two women or two men getting married isn’t a threat to anyone’s way of life. Because, yes, who your partner is IS a private thing, but it can’t be a quiet thing until we’ve made society at large safe for every one in it. Visibility is key to safety and coming out is key to visibility. So, of course it’s no one’s business who Tom Daley spends time with but until he and everyone queer is 100% safe then public coming outs will stil matter, will still mean something. It’s fine if YOU don’t have a problem with it, but it is important to recognize that your support is much more meaningful than dismissing it as something that is “no one’s business.”
2. Tom Daley “still fancies girls.” This so important and so complicated. Headlines say, “Tom Daley comes out as gay!” People angrily respond that he obviously came out as bisexual since he made a point about liking girls. Headlines say, “Tom Daley comes out as bisexual!” People angrily respond that he did not label himself, so we should not label him, besides he’s young and this probably just his way of easing into gayness or not ostracizing part of his fanbase. This is such an important conversation and it’s important especially because it’s happening. Whether Tom is gay, bisexual or something else actually is no one’s business. He’s been clear that he is with a man, he is very happy and he feels safe and supported in the relationship. That’s all that matters. So why are we arguing about the label? Because bisexuality is a real thing and it is often ignored or erased. Erasure happens because if a person likes boys and girls they generally pair up with one or the other and immediately become identified as gay or straight. Bisexual men are frequently told that they are just not yet fully admitting that they are gay. Bisexual women are often told that they are attention seeking, confused, or just slutty. Homosexuals are as guilty of these responses as the straight majority is. So when Tom Daley says he fancies girls at a time when he does not need too (everyone is going to say he’s gay anyway, everyone knows he’s with a man, so why temper it with mentioning girls?) it matters because it opens to conversation about how sexuality isn’t binary. It isn’t just gay or straight. There’s a whole huge spectrum out there that goes beyond the Kinsey scale. What it boils down to is that it still shouldn’t matter who someone’s partner is, but it does matter that they feel supported in their lives. We’ve been making some strides with gay marriage. As a society we are becoming more comfortable with lesbians and gay men in public spaces. But the whole array of human sexuality, the bisexuals, transgendered, genderqueer, asexual and whole host of other possibilities are still invisible. So when Tom Daley says he’s fancies girls he’s allowing for public conversation, allowing for visibility for everyone who hasn’t yet been invited to the table of acceptance. No, it doesn’t matter how we label him as an individual, it isn’t our business, but it is our business to pay attention and to listen to our friends and family so we can better understand how they identify and make them feel safe as well.
So congratulations, Tom Daley, on your new found happiness, and thank you for making important conversations possible.
On a more shallow note, holy smokes, Tom Daley is beautiful and his boyfriend is so handsome! And they seem so smart and thoughtful. There haven’t been many present day celebrity romances that have me me all fluttery, but this feels very old school romancey to me, very Bogart and Bacall. I’ll be over here sighing, with cartoon hearts in my eyes, every time I see a picture of them.