Friday, 13 December 2013

Tom Daley dives into the rainbow.

That glittery rainbow just keep attracting people, doesn't it?

All sorts of people have stepped forward recently to declare who they really are and every one of them traveled a personal journey, some rocky, some smooth and then told the world they are attracted to their same sex.


Welcome! 
The catch-cry is "It gets better" - and that's largely true. I found you do lose a few people. You put up with a load of bigoted abuse, even more casual abuse and sadly, you lose a few people you don't want to lose. Easy to say "you're better off without" - but that's not always true. Losing a friend or even worse, a relative, who simply withdraws from you is never easy. But keeping such a large secret makes life just too hard - so yes, coming out and finding people you feel safe with and hopefully someone you can love does make everything better.

But it's vitally important people keep stepping forward as LGBT because eventually the diverse mix and sheer numbers will convince even the most cynical that it's a natural part of human sexuality and doesn't stick to stereotypes.

If we are not at the magical percentage tipping point yet, where enough people support LGBT rights, then we are closing in on that number.


So while many are greeting the newly outed with congratulations and #bravery for their open admissions, I'd like to say a simple thank you. It's great you feel strong enough about who you are to stand up and be counted and every new proud LGBT person who can show the world we are everywhere and diverse helps.

Having said all of that - Tom Daley came out and he did it in an extraordinary way while saying some extraordinary things.


I've been a fan of Tom's for a while. Mathew Mitcham, our Australian Olympic diving gold medalist probably directed many Australian's to Tom's amazing story where he competed at Beijing as a 14 year old. Then Tom's father passed away from Cancer a year before he won Bronze in London at 18 and somehow he managed to remain open and sane in the glare of the public spotlight. That's probably when I became a real fan - that's when his actions showed him to be worth paying attention to.

So I wasn't really surprised when he came out in such a way that he shifted the conversation in what I feel is the right direction.

Tom Daley did two things - he came out as undefined. He's currently in a committed and loving relationship with a man. Is he gay? He only says he loves this man. Is he Bi-sexual? He says he still loves women. But he also makes it clear, meeting this man made every other relationship pale.
Tom Daley: "He makes me feel safe and happy, right now I couldn't be happier. I'd never felt the feeling of love, it happened so quickly, I was completely overwhelmed by it to the point I can't get him out of my head all the time. I've never had it before where I love someone and they love me just as much."
I have a friend who identified as gay. No, that's not accurate - he was so gay we expected him to become grandpa acid on a podium in gold hot pants at sixty. Instead, somewhere in his late thirties, early forties he met a woman, got married and is still happily married with children some 15 years later.


Does he run down to the gay sauna from time to time? Does it matter? That's his business. Maybe he's discussed his desires with his partner and they have an arrangement, maybe they don't, maybe being a husband and father is truly all he needed to remain 'gay celibate'.

There are a million questions that spring to mind when confronted by this sort of scenario, but the truth is human sexuality is complex and dependent on meeting that right person at the right time. It's great for those who feel comfortable about where they sit on the spectrum to shout out 'I am Gay!" or Lesbian or Bi or Transgendered, but often this makes a person feel tied down just as much as keeping their sexuality a secret.

How tiring to have to keep declaring 'what you are' every time you meet and fall in love with a new partner.


At the moment Tom Daley has fallen in love with a man. Good for him. If he falls in love with a woman down the track, also good for him. If he stays with his very noteworthy new boyfriend, Dustin Lance Black, for the rest of his life and still doesn't label himself as gay - equally - good for him!

This is not a race to get the most numbers to qualify for a merit badge. As much as I am an advocate for Gay rights and Gay equality I recognize the community is made up of incredibly diverse individuals and it would be so hypocritical to start judging others on their choices. Seriously - so Hypocritical.

It would be like - I don't know, having a gay profile site where members wrote horribly offensive search requirements - not that that would ever happen!  


Being gay, bi or any other label on the sexuality spectrum shouldn't matter. What matters is the recognition that the spectrum is part of human sexuality and being at one end, where the majority sits, isn't better or the goal to validate someone. The goal is empathy and understanding.

I think Tom Daley's coming out brought that into focus. He's out and in love, but he recognizes life is long and things may change. What a remarkable thing to declare at nineteen.

We are all what we are at a point in time and with the right person. It would be a great place to arrive at as a society if we could all understand any of us could love anyone and the moment we fall in love we shouldn't be locked into future choices by the here and now. For many of us we will love only that type, but once again we are not all alike, some will do what some will do and the rest of us should be open to that.


The second thing that Tom did was talk about how he'd been feeling.
"It felt like a dirty little secret, it felt like I had chains wrapped around me, I couldn't be who I was, I felt alone and trapped. Just telling one person made me feel so much better, just that one person took a weight off my shoulder. I told Sophie my best friend first as I knew she'd be really accepting of it. She's been so supportive and there for me. Now that everyone knows, I have nothing to hide, those chains that I felt wrapped around me are gone and I can carry on with my life as normal and be happy."

I naively thought in this internet age that such feelings would be dissipated as young people could go online anonymously and chat and quickly discover they are not alone.

There is a time when you are just beginning the journey towards coming out - a time when you have only just, often reluctantly, accepted the feelings you're having. That's a time when you should not be rushed, so I can imagine in some cases strict parenting rules about internet use prohibit people getting online to chat when it's most needed, or in Tom Daley's case his fame made that impossible. I have rarely heard this time in the journey towards coming out described better.
Tom Daley: "I felt like there was something wrong with me, I didn't know other people out there felt that way, I felt so alone, so locked away and couldn't say anything. Tell one person. Tell your story, how you feel. I've had people send some lovely Twitter messages with people telling me they've since come out to their parents, that they've had some hope, it shouldn't matter who I'm dating in this day and age. Be who you want to be." 
And this is why so many people, including me, believe this is a subject that needs constant publicising so any others, young or old, going through this period of their lives know they are not alone and things can and do get better.

I will always mourn that I never had the full experience of adolescence. I never felt able to talk about or act on natural feelings every teenage has and needs to travel to learn about themselves and life. I hid them away until I was twenty two years old. That shouldn't still be happening. That's why it's so important that these wonderfully diverse people, with well known profiles, continue to stand up and explain what they went through and who they love and they need to keep doing it until the entire world tells them to sit down because they already know and accept LGBT as part of a very normal spectrum of human sexuality.

Until we get to that - thank you Tom and all the rest...


But especially Tom...



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