Some brief comments on Tom Daley’s announcement

Some things I want to say about Tom Daley’s announcement today.

– I’m happy that he’s happy (that particular, slightly shy smile on the faces of loved-up people as they talk about their beloved is always a charming thing to see).

– He hasn’t come out as gay, no matter how irresistible Tom Gayley may be as a hashtag for pun-hungry twitter users. Neither, for that matter, has he come out as bisexual.

– The polite, and also the accurate, thing to do when describing someone else’s sexual orientation is to use the language that they use to describe themselves. This avoids the unpleasantness of shoehorning someone else’s experience into a category which they may not feel is right, and it avoids the factual error of ascribing them to the wrong category.

– Tom Daley has “come out” (if that’s even the right term) as ‘of course’ still fancying girls, but also as dating a guy. He has commented that this relationship ‘just feels right’, and makes him feel ‘so safe’ (that’s the real “awww…” moment right there).

– That description is potentially consistent with a label some people use to describe themselves: bisexual. But it’s also consistent with someone who understands himself as basically straight, except for his feelings for this one particular guy. It’s consistent with someone who’s never been able to reconcile these cold, staid words that other people use with the warm instinctiveness of his own feelings. It’s consistent with someone who, until he fell hard for this one individual, was never sure from one day to the next who would catch his eye. It’s consistent with a somewhat reluctant “celebrity” who wants to avoid making a definitive statement, given that some people will try and make him out to be “a liar” if things change in the future. It’s consistent with someone who’s recognised that his earlier experiences with women didn’t feel the same as his experiences with this guy, but isn’t certain yet if that’s just because things feel better when you’re properly in love, or if it means something more. It’s consistent with someone who finds his feelings in a state of flux and isn’t sure yet which of the established terms best describes him. It’s consistent with someone who just doesn’t care which of those terms describes him, and wishes the world didn’t care, either.

– We simply don’t know which of these – or a myriad of other possibilities – applies to Tom Daley. Hence why we should limit ourselves to describing him as he has described himself: as still fancying women, but dating a man.

– It saddens me that he apparently felt that he had to make his announcement because of fevered speculation, and being misquoted in a particular interview (presumably the relatively recent one in which it was made to seem that he had come out as definitively straight). I wish with all my heart that he could have just been let be – free to mention his relationship if he wanted, free to keep it quiet if he preferred, and not subject to a three-ring media and social media circus whichever he did. (And, yes, I do realise I’m part of the three-ring circus myself – but a respectful part, I hope, and a part that refrained from speculating until he broached the subject himself.)

– It disappoints me that, at the time I looked at it, 930 of the more than one million people who’ve watched the video felt the need to give it a thumbs down. It’s a small minority, thankfully, but how can anyone watch someone talk with such disarming sincerity about falling in love, and find in that something to disapprove?

– It angers me that he has had to think about, and forestall, those who will try and conscript his dead father into their criticisms of his decision to make this video. Some people in this world really are sick.

– I am relishing the sight of chickens returning to roost at the homes of all those many people who have asserted down the years that it was possible to diagnose Tom Daley’s orientation from his demeanour. Those people who asserted that he was “obviously gay” because he’s softly-spoken, and those others who asserted that he was “clearly straight” (and that anyone who allowed that an alternative might be true was just projecting their own desires), have been proven equally wrong by the man himself. You really can’t tell just by looking, and human sexuality is not just a question of either/or.

– Straight people who genuinely don’t care about the sexual orientation of people they’ve never met don’t click on articles about that very topic, and leave angry comments underneath. Heterosexuals who do those things make it very apparent to absolutely everyone that they care, and care quite a lot, too.

– A society which has moved beyond its obsession with sexual orientation – and how I long for that day! – is not a society in which nothing except heterosexuality is ever mentioned. That’s just a society in which all the non-straight folk are in hiding. A society which has moved beyond it’s obsession with sexual orientation is a society in which people mention their sexual orientation when it’s relevant (such as when they’re letting their You Tube followers know that they’ve fallen in love, for example) and no-one bats an eyelash, because it’s universally acknowledged as unremarkable.

– People who mention their sexual orientation in public aren’t trying to mark themselves out as different, or special; they’re not performing an “only gay in the village” manoeuvre that invites ridicule, contempt and hostility. Like Tom Daley said in his video, it’s just a matter of trying to be honest.

– If people being open and honest about sexual orientation makes you uncomfortable – if you really wish we wouldn’t – then that reveals a problem in you, not a problem in us.

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