December 3, 2013

IconDon’t be too quick to congratulate Tom Daley on coming out as gay

British Olympic diver Tom Daley announced yesterday (2 Dec 2013) that he was dating a guy. Within 24 hours the coming out video had 5.5million views on YouTube. Reactions on social media and the mainstream press have ranged from delight to disgust, with a fair few ‘well duh’ comments too.

But there’s just one thing that everyone seems to have overlooked: Tom Daley hasn’t actually said he’s gay.

When I watched Tom Daley’s video I felt so pleased for him that he was able to tell people in his own way, writes Sarah Evans.

I mean, yes, he shouldn’t need to, but in a society fixated on celebrity I’m glad he was able to tell anyone who wanted to hear it, in his own way that he is in a relationship with a guy.

I also started to feel saddened by how much my social networking feed became jammed with the work ‘gay’ or even in one case ‘of course he still likes girls – he’s got a Christmas Calendar to sell’. How silly of me, I should be thinking of him as a celebrity commodity and not an actual human being!

In Tom Daley’s articulate and heart felt public video he notes that he still likes girls but now he’s seeing a guy. At NO point in this video does he mention that he is gay, or even bisexual. So why are we so desperate to give him a big gay sticky label? Society doesn’t like spectrums; it likes neat little packing boxes with no way to change.

Ten years ago I had my first relationship with a woman (I’d only ever had relationships with men before). A few months into our relationship a friend gave me a fridge magnet which read ‘Bi now, Gay later’.

I was told that this fridge mark was famous – it had been passed down through a succession of women who came out as bi, but soon realised they were gay. My heart sank. At first wanted to reject it, but I accepted the gift and told her that the magnet would remind me to fight for the right to label YOURSELF and not allow others to do it for you.

Ten years later that magnet still lives on my fridge. Every time I look at it I remember the importance of standing up, being visible and challenging biphobia whenever I hear it, which unfortunately, is a lot.

So, whether Tom Daley decides that he’s straight and was only attracted to his current partner, bisexual, gay, or maybe to not chose a label al all, that is HIS decision to make, and let’s hope that the follow up news story will be that he is happy, supported and above all, wins gold!

Sarah Evans is the founder of ‘Art with Heart’. Her work often explores gender, sexuality, comedy and women’s history, and she works a lot with community and youth groups. Her recent work includes exhibition and stage play ‘The Secret Diaries of a Teenage Queer’.

2 Responses to Don’t be too quick to congratulate Tom Daley on coming out as gay

  1. Dave Garry says:

    When someone says “I fix broken pipe for a living”, doesn’t it make him/her a plumber. You are being sentimental, he is gay. homosexual is defined as being sexually attracted to one’s own sex. So, one can be bi-sexual and claasified as gay.

  2. Cal_girl says:

    I think you are completely right. I have never solved my sexuality. Never, ever. I never thought it was somewhat important, but apparently, it was. Not for me, but for my colleagues. When I was in my previous job and came out as BI, my female colleague Sonia – who was a very hateful person in general – made a snarky remark: “So you are actually a lesbian.” You should have seen the vicious smirk on her face. I said that I actually would not mind being a lesbian because I don´t care, but I was still attracted more to men. And Sonia remarked that being BI is “just an excuse for gay people who are afraid of coming out” and that I would be afraid of saying that I was a lesbian in front of them, “normally-oriented people”, because I would be afraid of my own perversity. I was like: WHAAAT??! The funny thing is that everybody solves my bisexuality. Gay people are hateful because I am “not gay enough” or “unsure of my own sexuality” and hetero people are hateful because I am “clearly gay but afraid of coming out”, or “not normal enough”. So there really IS biphopia. A great deal. Why can´t I go to bed with whoever I want to without being shunned or pointed at? Why is it so important? I just think that the whole thing with sexual orientation is vastly overrated. As I said, I don´t care about my sexuality, but I DO care about people hating on me for no reason. I did not murder anybody, for God´s sake! There is nothing bad about being bi or gay. YET most people think it is. And they all think in black and white terms: “You are not straight, ergo you must be gay. Even the slightest hint of omosexuality must automatically mean that you are completely gay.” Crazy mofos.