Tom Daley and the importance of being honest with yourself
Today, people all over the globe (men and women alike) rejoiced as one of the most adorable athletes in the world announced yesterday that while he still “fancies” girls, he is in a loving relationship with a guy. Yes, you read correctly: Tom Daley is bi.
The reason this is newsworthy (while it should not necessarily be any of our business since it is a very private matter) is because Tom Daley is an Olympic-winning athlete. His celebrity status and comfort in being himself in such a scorching light has the ability to show others how much better life is once they live their lives outside of the shadow of their own insecurities. While many times being yourself may seem like the worst thing to do because of societal pressures or familial bonds, it’s being honest with yourself and understanding that life is too short to live it any other way than the way you want to that should take precedence. And Tom embodies that.
In his revelatory video, he shows the world that he truly is happy being himself and engaging in whatever type of relationship he wants. He isn’t asking for the world to approve of his lifestyle; he’s informing us in order to get the story straight and to let the people who love him (parasocially I’m sure) to share somewhat in his happiness. And that’s the best part: he is willing to let others (his fans) share in this momentous occasion WITH him. He isn’t hiding himself behind fake relationships; he is being honest and true through and through.
And this brings me to my point: why does it matter? Tom, along with his athletic counterparts like Robbie Rogers, Jason Collins and even Darren Young, have shown the American (and global) public that being a sports player isn’t necessarily a “straight” thing; LGBT people can also compete (and own) in these events. It denounces many of the stereotypes that LGBT people face daily. Where other countries like Russia are explicitly harassing and executing LGBT youth because of their sexuality, celebrities and athletes who are actually out and proud can be a beacon of hope to let these tortured people know that it does get better. The more LGBT people and issues become commonplace in society, the less of a stigma will be attached to the community as a whole. And people like Tom Daley make it more okay (slowly but surely).
Lastly, in light of the Supreme Court decision to overturn DOMA and of course the slow-moving winds of change that have been sweeping through the US slowly but surely (marriage equality), in addition to other countries creating marriage equality laws like France, it is good to see more support for this minority group.
Also, from a PR standpoint, what Tom did is amazing. He approached his audience in a manner that would make them trust him and know that he is not necessarily trying to pull off some publicity stunt (similar to how Anderson Cooper handled it in his email response to writer Andrew Sullivan). By posting a video that was obviously shot with a handheld camera in his (hopefully his) apartment, he was able to establish a more casual tone regarding his news. Because this is something that would take on a life of his own if not handled well (or if he was misquoted, which tends to happen with stories of this magnitude), the best strategy would be for him to personally handle it and post a response. Hence, the personal youtube post and twitter mention really helped perpetuate his message and make sure that he was in control of it from the very beginning. He was able to avoid being caught in a web of lies or misdirections regarding his personal life because he allowed his audience to get the truth from a direct source; there was no mincing of the message or even misinterpreting what he meant. And because of that, Tom was able to sit back and relax after posting it. He answered all of the questions that needed to be answered and then asked that people respect his privacy. Which, it seems, people are actually doing.
All in all, this revelation will help show others that honesty is the key to a healthy and more fulfilling life. And to you, Tom, I say this: Great job; I’m so proud of you! There will always be haters, but they make life more interesting anyway. You’re gorgeous and just a great human being. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors!