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Olympic Diver Tom Daley Comes Out, Fairly Awesomely

Posted by Scott Kearnan  December 2, 2013 01:23 PM

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Tom Daley, who is famous for being the only Olympic diver I could name if a gun was put to my head (please don't test that theory), released a video this morning to get some news out there: since the spring, he's been dating a guy. Here's the announcement he sent out from his Twitter handle, @TomDaley1994, which contains his birth year as, I'm pretty sure, a gratuitous reminder that you're old and maybe a little pervy if you were like, ooh look at that Union Jack-loving dreamboat and his bedhead. So yeah, cool your jets already.

In and of itself, a celebrity "coming out moment" isn't all that rare anymore, and tends to be met with the prerequisite smattering of supportive golf claps. But diver Daley joins an elite group of extra-cool recent efforts (Jodie Foster: I liked it) and earns scorecards of solid 10s for taking this leap. Three reasons:

  • In the Olympic world, Daley is a marquee name and pop culture darling. And the International Olympic Committee, in case you've been living under a rock, has been successfully dodging a serious look at the issue of Russia's anti-gay laws (so-called "propaganda" prohibitions that are so broadly reaching they could probably detain you for publicly wearing a Beyonce t-shirt) and how they will affect the safety of gay and straight ally athletes competing in next year's winter games in Sochi. Though Daley obviously won't be diving in the Kremlin anytime soon (he's readying to train for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio) maybe the coming out of one of the sports world's more popular figures will nonetheless encourage the IOC to actually address how Russia's policies conflict with the committee's Principle 6, which states that discrimination is "incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement." (In the meanwhile, this new campaign involving American Apparel is trying to remind them.)
  • While it would be nice to live in a world in which racism has ended and same-sex couples are able to flaunt themselves by doing truly audacious things, like hold hands on a park bench (HISS!) or kiss their spouse goodbye at the airport (UGH!) without fear of reprisal, unfortunately the world has not yet evolved to reach that point. (See: Russia. Or even Mississippi.) So these coming out moments do still matter, by putting a familiar face to something that, to many people out there who live without TV, movies, clothing and books, still seems unfamiliar. (It doesn't hurt when those faces are freshly scrubbed and likable, either.) Daley avoided taking the PR-approved route of coming out via magazine cover story, which cynics love to decry as vapid gasps for publicity: maybe because he claims he was angry after seeing himself misquoted in an interview. (Could have been this one, which quotes him as saying, "I’m not [gay]. But even if I was, I wouldn’t be ashamed. It wouldn’t bother me in the slightest what people thought.") Instead of taking the traditional approach, Daley conveyed himself in the preferred medium of his generation: a confessional selfie video that comes across as more sincere and personal than a press release — and, importantly, does its best to treat his announcement like the non-issue that it should be. He's not grasping at a podium, he's just chatting to his peers and fans as their good pal Tom, in the best public approximation of what private conversations like this really look like.
  • Despite what 90 percent of the Twitter headlines suggest, Daley doesn't say in his video that he's gay. He says that he's in a relationship with another guy. That's an important distinction; in fact, Daley says he "still fancies" girls. That he chose not to slap a label on himself might wind up earning him heat from both sides of the proverbial aisle, since airs of bisexuality are often stigmatized even in the LGBT community. But allowing himself to maintain a certain sense of fluidity around his sexuality is not only the mark of a young person confident in his own skin (like college, you can always declare a major later if you want), it's also a much more honest representation of how most people experience their sexuality (HEY REMEMBER THIS) and it would be nice to see that recognized more often.

In related news, Daley has already retweeted a show of support from Kylie Minogue. I assume the rest of his welcome packet is in the mail. (Spoiler: it includes a decoder ring that translates the homoerotic subtext of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2.) Cheers, Tom.

Kylieshot.jpg

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About this blog

Scott Kearnan (@thewritestuffSK) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and communications consultant focusing on lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment. He's also a part-time smart aleck and buffalo wing connoisseur. "Media Remix" is where couch potatoes meet pop culture criticism. More »

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