Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Is Tom Daley's Sexuality A Big Deal? I Don't Think So.


Yesterday Tom Daley came out as bisexual, and announced his current relationship with a man. I think it's great that he came out, and will be a great model to other young sports players who are gay. It's great that he is happy and the reception from the public has generally been very accepting.

However, I don't agree with the media circus that has surrounded it. On ITV news last night, it ran alongside some shocking stories including the Helicopter Crash in Glasgow, The Italian Woman who had a forced abortion, and the murder trial of Lee Rigby. What it felt like was that Tom Daley coming out was as shocking as these other stories. When really, coming out nowadays is not such a big deal in most situations.

A few years ago, one of my childhood friends came out as gay. I completely took me by surprise, but what was actually more surprising was how little it mattered.

When I was a teenager, coming out seemed like it would be a huge life changing move, a massive step and something that would change the way people perceive you. And while does change your life in the way that you feel completely honest with yourself, a lot of the time, it doesn't change the way people see you.

I think my friend would agree with me when I say the whole thing was completely anti-climactic.

After the initial 'Guess what? I'm Gay' moment, I completely forgot. I felt bad, like I wasn't being supportive or bothered enough, but to be honest, nothing had changed. He was still one of my best friends. Literally nothing changed. I couldn't care less who he fancied or fell in love with, he was still him. Life went on.

What I think is important to say to any young person who is afraid of coming out, is to say that most of the time there's not such a huge fuss. Most people are generally very accepting nowadays, and this whole media circus doesn't reflect that. It's a completely normal thing, in fact, it happens Daley (haha).

What do you think? Is it a good thing that all there's been huge public attention? Or is it a bit dated that the media still report stories like this? Let me know by commenting at the bottom of this post.

Congratulations to Tom and his boyfriend, and I hope they have many very happy years together.

7 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you on this. I was quite shocked to see this as the top news story on the BBC 10 o'clock news last night. However, having seen some of the horrible reactions by ignorant homophobic people on Twitter maybe our initial reaction of "what's the big deal?" was a little naive? I don't know. I still don't think it was 10 o'clock news worthy, but sadly there are still a great deal of deplorable people in this world that will try to make his life hell just because they can.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I do still think it is important for people like Tom to come out publicly as it does help others overcome what is often a scary situation. However, whether it is newsworthy I'm not so sure.

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  2. I understand that to you, Tom Daley's coming out is no big deal. This opinion is widely shared among people who don't identify personally with his situation. As a gay person who has also come out, I felt as though I should respond to your article.

    Firstly, and this is just a little gripe really, Tom Daley isn't necessarily bisexual - I think this label has been mistakenly given to him. He came out about his same-sex relationship, but didn't mention that he was bisexual.

    I applaud your sensitivity and understanding of your gay friend's situation. It sounds as though you were a lovely kind friend who he'll have taken great reassurance from. However, to a young gay, bisexual or trans person, coming out is most probably the largest, most difficult and grown up decision they have had to make. Throughout their lives, they will have been subjected to, or at least witness to homophobia, whether that be name-calling at school, stereotyped gay characters on TV, discrimination by religion or via their own family and they will have been cultured to believe that straight is the only acceptable way of live. The pressure is intense. The risk to relationships with family, friends and their future is unbearable and severe - causing feelings of suicide in a large percentage of young people. So, after the big announcement, the biggest thing they've ever done, there is a feeling of calm. Anti-climax is certainly the wrong word for you to choose, which is understandable, given that you were unable to feel what your friend was feeling at the time. As a gay person myself who came out as a young adult, I can tell you that it will have been a huge deal to him and the subsequent feeling of calm was well deserved.

    Despite the incorrect assumption by straight people that the UK is LGBT+ inclusive and fully developed. It isn't, unfortunately. Homophobia is especially prevalent in schools, religion, politics and professional sport. As a straight person with successful gay friends, you might be unaware that LGBT people are still widely ignored and misrepresented by the media and in society generally. We can't give blood, we're not discussed positively in schools, we are subject to homophobic chants at sports events, we're sidelined by religions. We still don't feel safe to hold hands or kiss our partners in public. People are still homophobic.

    You suggested that it may have become a little dated to report on LGBT issues in the mainstream news. You may not realise that positive LGBT stories have been widely ignored by mainstream media. As a recent example; the day that the Queen signed same sex marriage into British law wasn't reported by the mainstream media (in favour of a story about the Queen telling a crowd of people that she wishes the Royal baby to 'hurry up' because she was off on holiday). There was nothing about the passing of same-sex marriage at all on any mainstream news programme or newspaper. The passing of same-sex marriage was arguably the single biggest advance in equality for LGBT people in the last decade. (ref: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/07/19/whitehall-questions-why-equal-marriage-was-largely-ignored-by-bbc-channel-4-and-other-media/)

    In summary, whilst it may seem like an over-reaction, or insignificant to other straight supporters of Tom Daley, the mainstream coverage of his experience in the news is fundamental and ground-breaking. Millions of young gay or bisexual people,and parents and families of LGBT young people will find comfort and reassurance in the story and will be eagerly following the 'calm' after the storm. It's important to the future for LGBT people in the UK that prominence is given to similar, positive LGBT stories in the mainstream news and media in future.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I think I may have been a little misunderstood. I am not saying that coming out is easy, definitely not, what I am trying to say is that most people's family and friends do not find it such a huge deal when you do. I feel that the media's interpretation of one person's sexuality makes it seem like a big deal to us, as outsiders, when in fact, it is not. I think this idea may help some people to see that in most circumstances, they should not worry about what their loved ones would think if they were to come out.
      While I don't agree that Tom Daley's sexuality is important enough to be covered in the news, I do however feel that other LGBT stories are. I know there is a stigma that is still attached to sexuality, and that is why I believe that LGBT stories, like marriage equality and the above mentioned, should most definitely be covered. I feel that we have a long way to go before full equality (with anything really, race, gender etc.) and I think that by reporting one person's sexuality will not overcome it. We need to talk about and teach, LGBT rights, marriage, etc. as a whole rather than focusing on one person's personal life. By focusing on one person's sexuality stigmatizes them as if it is a big deal, when in fact, it is not. What is a big deal is the continued homophobia still displayed throughout society.
      I hope this explains my beliefs a little better!

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  3. If you think it's a good thing that the likes of Tom come out publicly, does that action not automatically make it news? OK it may not really compare with some of the other stories you mention that are in the news this week, but while a lot of people are still struggling badly with their sexuality in a country that's undoubtedly better but still far from fully accepting, a public figure coming out in this way will provide inspiration, confidence and good feeling to such folk, and for this alone it surely should still be at least in some way newsworthy.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. First of all I'd like to say that I am glad he came out publicly, because as you say, he can stand as an inspiration to other people going through the same struggles. What I don't agree with is that it is reported in the national news, because, as I say, it's not such a big deal. By putting it alongside those other stories in particular, it makes it look like his coming out is just as shocking. When really, it's normal. As I have mentioned in a comment above, I feel that the news should cover other LGBT stories, rather than one man's sexuality. By exposing the story in such a way, it looks to those who are struggling like coming out is a huge story, when mostly to others, it is not.

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    2. I get your point but I still think there's an argument to say that the national news should report on both positive and negative things (check my latest blog on positive engagement in politics!), and report a wide spectrum of LGBT stories, from discrimination to inspiration. OK this one maybe should have been in the "...and finally" section rather than a main story, but still worthy of news. You're right, it SHOULDN'T be news, but at the moment it still is. As Owen Jones said in his piece in the Independent the other day: "It's news because millennia of bigotry cannot simply be eradicated in a few decades"

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