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It’s not often that a story about a celebrity really makes me stand back and go ‘wow’, but Tom Daley’s coming out video on YouTube did. It is hard to understate how significant this video is, but British sport is one of the only remaining sectors of society where there is little LGBTQ representation. Premiership football lacks any openly gay or bisexual footballers in its four highest leagues, and the issue of sexuality is rarely discussed. For Tom Daley to tell the world about his sexual leanings at such a young age, and after competing in the Olympics last year, is a profound step forward for British sport, and perhaps even internationally. It sends a massive message out through the sporting world, making clear that sexuality is not a barrier to success.
As Daley himself says, people would not have to come out “in an ideal world”, however the reality for LGBTQ individuals is that they find themselves having to address their sexuality, or ‘come out’, on a regular basis. To come out is not to make a grand statement to your nearest and dearest, but a gradual process. Coming out is therefore not something with a finite end, it is continual. For every person you meet and get close to, people feel the need to explain their sexuality. This explanation invariably involves some form of justification, as attempts are made to explain why you are predisposed to a certain gender. This should not be a big deal, yet for gay and bisexual individuals it takes up a big part of their life. Daley was brave, not just for uploading the video explaining his same sex relationship on YouTube, but for not putting a specific label against his sexual orientation – despite many publications leaping to headline this revelation ‘TOM DALEY ANNOUNCES HE IS GAY’. He is with someone who makes him incredibly happy, why should he have to clarify whether he is gay or bisexual? His coming out, and revealing his relationship with another man, is all that he felt the need to do. Whilst the media may continue to mistakenly label him as “gay”, this love is all the world really needs to know.
Of course, it can be said that gay and bisexual individuals do not face the sort of prejudice they faced some decades ago. However, whether it be James Arthur’s recent homophobic slurs or the fact that 99% of school pupils hear homophobic language used regularly, prejudice is still around. This only goes to prove how massive Tom Daley’s coming out is. So many gay and bisexual teenagers feel lonely and isolated in communities they feel judge them, in some cases this can breed self-hatred and denial. It is hugely important for these individuals to have strong role models, fortunately, my generation now has people like Tom Daley, Gareth Thomas and Russell Tovey. Confident men, for whom their sexuality is incidental to their outstanding successes; men who are role models for gay and bisexual teenagers growing up in a world in which they would otherwise feel isolated. Sexuality is not a barrier, but one single part of them. This is creating a newfound safety, which for so long has been denied to these teenagers – it is a huge step forward for gay and bisexual individuals as it becomes more acceptable in modern society, and indeed now, the sporting world.
The same age as Tom Daley, I stand in an interesting situation. Although prejudice still exists, it is slowly decreasing in how far it pervades. When we were born, Section 28 was still in effect and the age of consent was unequal, I could not have my love for another legally recognised. These discriminatory pieces of legislation have been torn down as society has grown more tolerant, thus, Daley did not face the barrage of criticism if somebody had announced this in the year we were born. Instead, he faced a murmur – it is this murmur which shows how far we have come in recognising that sexuality is nothing more than a preference. It’s something which is important, but does not impact an individual’s character and is, in fact, the source of much love in the world. Whichever source it comes from, it deserves to be celebrated.