We live in strange world don't we? Yesterday (Monday December 2) British Olympic Diver Tom Daley posted a Youtube video in which he said he was dating a guy. Within minutes the clip had been shared around the world and within the hour numerous blog posts had popped up discussing the relevance of his announcement. Was this really news? Does anyone really care? Didn't we all assume Tom was gay anyway? We had the obligatory Buzzfeed round up of negative tweets in response to the video, followed by the obligatory Buzzfeed round up of positive tweets in response to the video. Kylie tweeted Tom. Tom retweeted Kylie. Stephen Fry tweeted Tom. Tom replied to Stephen Fry. Lady Gaga Tweeted about Tom. Tens of thousands of others read, shared and favourited the exchanges. At the time of writing this blog entry Tom's original tweet had been retweeted over 63,000 times and favourited by over 73,000 people.
Twitter (and social media in general) has completely changed the way we find out about news stories, comment on them and discuss them. What a lot of people failed to understand yesterday was that although Tom Daley posted that message on a video sharing website, he didn't do it for Lady Gaga or Stephen Fry or Kylie Minogue or for me or for you. He did it for himself.
Unlike Tom, when I came out almost 12 years ago I didn't have Facebook, Twitter followers or a legion of adoring fans to consider. I told my close friends, family and people I worked with and the reaction I got was great, in fact I couldn't have asked for better. I didn't tell people I was gay because I felt it was my duty to let them know - I told them because I did not want to continue to live a life that wasn't really mine. Of course, by being open and honest with those close to me I was able to build closer bonds with people because I felt that I wasn't hiding anything anymore. Tom Daley's life is a life in the public eye. We have seen him grow up on our TVs and computer screens. We've read about him in magazines and cheered him on at London 2012 where he picked up a bronze medal. You may remember the awful Twitter trolling that took place at this time when someone tweeted Tom saying that his father (who had passed away from cancer) would be ashamed of him only collecting third place medal. Vile. Inexcusable. Just awful.
Tom is 19 years old. Anyone who has been through the process of realising they're somehow different to their friends, questioning their sexuality, knows how difficult this chapter in their life is. Some people find it so emotionally challenging that they choose to ignore it and lead a life that suits those around them. Others come out. Tom has also had to deal with the death of his father, which at a young age can completely derail some people. The death of a parent becomes a defining moment in your life where all other events take up a place either before or after. Tom may very well have been struggling to understand his feelings towards men at the time of his father's illness and death. He may not have struggled at all - I know that for some people that process of self-realisation isn't as earth-shattering or as traumatic as it is for others. Either way, the fact that he has now decided to be open with his friends, family and the public is something that we should either respect or keep quiet about.
Many people, when hearing that Daley is now dating a guy, predictably threw around the 'in other news the Pope is Catholic' line. Whatever we thought about Tom Daley before yesterday in regards to his sexual preference, no one can say that they 'knew he was gay' all along. No one can say this because Tom himself hasn't even now come out as gay - something else that a huge number of people don't seem to want to accept. I've read many comments suggesting that he is making his coming out as gay easier by utilising the bisexual label. Daley didn't use the words gay or bisexual in his video so who are we to create gaps and then proceed to fill them in ourselves?
I think that Tom Daley's video is a beautiful, honest, personal, inspiring and emotional 5 minutes and 26 seconds. He told us on Youtube because whether he likes it or not, his profession dictates that he has a personal profile. The fact that some people feel they have the right to disrespect someone who has decided to share something so personal confuses me. Some people have once again asked why people still need to come out. The reason is simple. As long as society assumes that someone is straight until they know otherwise, people will have to come out. Tom Daley could have come out by doing a magazine interview, holding hands with his boyfriend in public or writing a book. It doesn't matter how he did it - he did it in the way he wanted to and in my opinion he did it really well.
I'll watch this video again and again because I think that the words Tom uses are perfect. He refuses to label himself (he says he still likes girls) but he is open about feeling safe and happy being with a guy. I know how hard coming out is. I know how hard losing a parent at a young age is. Neither experience is easy. And so for that I wholeheartedly take my hat off to Tom Daley for being such a brave man. He may not realise it at the moment, but as well as making his own life much easier, his maturity and honesty has also just helped thousands of other people too.