This afternoon, British Olympic diver Tom Daley made an announcement. It wasn’t ostentatious or showy, it wasn’t designed to silence dogged rumours, or further his own celebrity. It was startlingly plain and unadorned – two words that don’t usually apply to the perma-tanned nineteen year old.
He didn’t weep or turn on the amateur dramatics. He didn’t attempt to justify the things that he was saying. He was quiet, mature and intelligent as he told the world something which he should have a right to keep to himself.
What he didn’t do, despite the fervent attestations of many magazines and newspapers, is come out as being gay. He said he was in a same sex relationship – that’s all. Despite this, the entire world decided that he was a homosexual as soon as the words left his mouth.
It was always going to happen – Daley said as much in his short YouTube announcement. He knows what people are going to think, what they’re going to fill their headlines with. This makes his restraint even more refreshing. It does not matter whether the diver is gay, straight or bisexual – it makes no difference whatsoever.
Yet, it’s important to note that Daley DID NOT use the word gay, or refer to himself as being gay. He said that he had dated both men and women. He said that he was in a relationship with a man currently, and that he was happier than ever. That’s all he said.
In lots of ways, it is much harder to do what Tom Daley has done than to ‘come out’ in the traditional fashion. It is so deliciously tempting to file yourself into one box or the other, simply because society demands that you do. It is much easier for the media to understand a celebrity who comes out as a homosexual, who is willing to put file their sexuality away in one of those two boxes.
Daley’s refusal to assign a word to his sexuality won’t stop the media from doing it on his behalf. And he knows that. It’s the cross that he’ll have to bear for being brave enough to ‘expose’ himself in the first place. There are already high profile headlines across the internet – only a handful are accurate in any way.
Rather predictably, most use the word gay or they focus on the fact that Daley is now dating a man – rather than the fact that he has alluded to dating people of BOTH genders. For the record, I don’t care if Tom Daley is gay, straight or bisexual. I am concerned by the notion that bisexuality isn’t a ‘suitable’ choice. It’s still seen as being not enough, as being nothing but an idle stop gap between 100% heterosexuality and 100% raging queen.
If you’re a bisexual female, you’ll know exactly what this feels like. In fact, you’ve probably lost count of the amount of times that you’ve been asked which gender you prefer. Isn’t that the exact opposite of bisexuality in every single way? Not that you can’t have a preference, but that you must have one. So you’re bisexual, but do you like boys or girls best?
Even today, a bisexual individual is thought of someone who is either too lascivious to settle down and be a good heterosexual. Or they’re thought of as someone who is too cowardly to admit being a homosexual. Unfortunately, it’s just not true. I’m afraid that sexuality is a tad more complicated than the Daily Mail would have you believe.
I’m not a big fan of Tom Daley. I think that he often cares more about his celebrity image than he does his athletic prowess. I cringe every time I see him on television and he looks more orange than ever. He appears on hideous programmes like Splash, and he blurs the line between genuine ability and throwaway nonsense. I don’t particularly enjoy the things that he does, but I do think that he’s remarkably brave.
There aren’t many nineteen year olds who could do what Tom Daley did today. Let’s face it – can you really be sure what you want at the tender age of nineteen? He could break up with this mysterious man and instantly fall back in love with the girliest girly girl that he can find.
But that’s the beauty of being young and proud. He doesn’t have to choose a sexuality, none of us do. We could all ignore the bullshit expectations of a society that is both obsessed with and utterly terrified of sex. We could love personalities, not genitals.
We could love people, not genders.