special disco mention #11: tom Daley
Whats the big deal? Who cares what gender you choose to exchange your bodily fluids with?
Ideally, wed be beyond sexuality being an issue whatsoever in this day and age. We have a by-now-established culture of celebrating all stripes of sexuality in this country – well established gay areas in some of our biggest cities, gay pride marches, a large gay club culture etc etc. Unfortunately, though, with those in the public eye, there is still a frighteningly small number of people who choose to be open about being gay. Entertainment, Politics and Sport are all areas of public life where it would appear everyone is strictly heterosexual.
Sport, in particular, is one area of life where progress seemingly ground to a halt somewhere around the mid 1940s. Football, our national sport, has less out players than you have digits on your right hand. There are 92 professional teams in the country – each with a squad of around 20-30 players – so something like 2000 professional players, and less than half of one percent of them have come out as being gay/bisexual. Thats astonishing, really, because it either suggests that there is something extremely unusual about the ratio of straight to gay people who take up professional football (unlikely to the point of impossible) or, more realistically, it suggests that the culture in the game is so homophobic that it makes it very difficult for people to be transparent about their sexuality, unless of course theyre heterosexual. Its not just football either.
Throughout sport, there are very few sportsmen and women who are publicly known to be gay. So, over to young Tom Daley. Daley the diver, for those who dont know, is one of those very rare things in Britain – an athlete whos actually good enough to win things! Hes remarkable for something else too: He started competing at Olympic level for Great Britain aged 14. And now, after this weeks homemade video in which he quietly told his fans that he was in a relationship with a man, hes remarkable for a third thing: Hes out and proud.
The initial coverage of Daleys video was slightly uncomfortable – why is this news? people shouted at the telly, who cares?! people sighed at the front cover of the Guardian – but, actually, it is quite important. Its important, because the over riding feeling as to why there are so few out people in the public eye is not because they are just keeping themselves to themsleves, but because they fear backlash if they do come out. Because underneath our live and let live liberalism, theres still a gurgling undercurrent of fear and prejudice towards homosexuality. Tom Daley, through the medium of a slightly-cloying self-shot video, walked right through this invisible barricade, and for his act of honesty, we raise our glasses to the young man. Special Disco Mention to you, sir.