So…Tom Daley made a video this week and everyone is talking about it. In the inevitable melee, a lot of other stuff came out – not all of it is as charming as our Tom. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a lump in my throat watching the video but, as usual, it doesn’t take me long to go from joy to despair, as I watch the world digest even this most basic of stories. So what better way to deal with my bemusement than yet another list of stuff? Without further-a-do, here are 4 things I‘d rather not have witnessed coming out this week alongside the one thing (besides Tom Daley, obviously) that‘s made it all worthwhile.
1. News editors calling people gay
You’d be excused for assuming that Tom Daley made a massive announcement that he was gay. Except, that never actually happened. What happened was that he mentioned the fact he was going out with a man. Of course, maybe he‘s happy with that label, maybe that‘s what he was basically driving at, …or maybe, he’s just in love with a guy and would rather you heard it from him than from tabloid editors.
But it’s definitely not the role of the media to decide any of this stuff for anyone. Of course, we didn’t expect that this would ever be treated tastefully but the Express could maybe have gone for something a bit more tactful than this.
They later changed it, unlike the Herald who’re still leading with what a gay Tom apparently is.
There’s a stage where this becomes a little more like outing than coming out, and when the press leap to conclusions they could leave Tom having to patiently explain the exact mechanics of things that no-one has even the faintest clue about. Things that are basically none of anyone’s fucking business.
2. Biphobia and the Two State Solution
It wasn’t just the fact that no-one said “Tom Delay is bisexual,” that would have been every bit the misfire that branding him gay was; it was the continued and insidious suggestion that this was “just the beginning.” First, a man would appear and he’d pay lip service to still fancying women before inevitably saying that he’s was actually born a massive homo but used to just be compelled to lie about it.
The constant scorn poured on people who’re bisexual or who define their relationships with reference to things other than sex and/or gender gets magnified in this discussion. Straight people and gay men have a chat in which we all agree that you’re eternally stuck with what you happen to be doing right now for the rest of your miserable either gay or straight life. Thankfully, that’s just not true, there are more than two sides to any story.
3. Other people saying it doesn’t/shouldn’t matter
Along with straight people being happy/proud/pleased etc. etc. (or mostly saying they didn’t care), we are always reminded when people come out that “it shouldn’t matter.” Coming out matters. Even when you’ve done it a thousand times in seemingly endless configurations, the knowledge that this might be the time it goes tits up, still matters. Mentioning something doesn’t mean you’re part of the problem, that’s where ignorance comes from. The same arguments used to shout down people challenging sexism or racism (that basically pointing it out means you’re a massive racist/sexist etc. etc) get wheeled out, with people grumbling that everyone should just shut up coz like…who even cares about disgusting sex and yuckiness anyway? We’re all very tolerant and shoosht.
It matters because he’ll doubtless be obliged to compete in countries where many possible expressions of his sexuality will be a criminal offence. It matters because so few sports people ever do it. It matters exactly because he still had to say it.
It matters because the hatred that’s followed the video may have been dwarfed by the outpouring of support but it was still there. The Twitter trolls may not get to Tom Daley but they are still in someone’s class or at their work, making things just a bit more shit for the rest of us. It must still matter to us while saying you’re going out with another guy is still a dangerous thing to do in our society.
4. The Gay Mafia being creepy
“Europe’s largest Gay news service” Pink News managed to call Tom “gay” as well, before having to painfully retract it and apologise. I kind of accept the story that the Deputy Editor was desperate for the story and just didn’t listen to the bit about him still fancying girls but it’s still piss poor in context. Not just the context of striving to be better than the mainstream media but in the context of having relentlessly fantasised about Tom Daley since he was basically a child, like much of the gay media.
The feeling of “GOTCHA!” screaming out from some of the headlines was palpable, uncomfortably so. I understand that the constant sniping and undermining of gay male sexuality means being a hot homo is a gigantic fuck you to the dominant derision. I see Daley looking mighty confident/fine strutting around in his knickers and that is powerful and maybe even empowering. It doesn’t need to be all hair shirts or indeed any shirts at all, all the time, there is always taps aff time. But there are also lots of different kinds of power at work here. I don’t see the way some in the gay media have been salivating over Daley up until this point to be much different from the way tabloid editors fantasise over many young women, who they‘ve decided are fair game because they‘re celebrities.
LGBTQ people need to ask if it’s really the be all and end all to have a bunch of guys (and it’s always guys) standing around in their pants punting loads of stuff in our general direction. Again, the G seems to be getting all the focus and there is surely a point where it all just gets a bit fucking creepy. If you run a website getting hits off recycled pictures of really young guys in speedos, I’d suggest you’ve maybe crossed that line.
Pink News is unashamedly mainstream and hit hungry and I appreciate getting basic facts spectacularly wrong is usually what happens when you write things on the internet. They don’t really claim to be a radical voice or hardcore queer theorists but there is a need for gay men in particular to understand that we’re not the only people with a voice or a stake in this. We need to question the sexual politics within our community, not just challenge the hate directed against us from outside. We get a 0 out of 10 in my book, for Monday being another day when the gay media tried to suggest Tom Daley was probably gay and it was therefore even more OK for us to all oggle him, like some kind of sexy goldfish at the big gay fair.
5. Someone taking control
Coming out is powerful. Whether we agree with the value placed on “celebrities” or not, the power of coming out is amplified when someone in the public eye does it.
Coming out is the act of taking control, of saying you’re speaking for yourself now. It‘s saying (even though it’s usually all front) that you actually don’t care enough about the ill-informed opinions of total arseholes, even the ones who might have called themselves your friends or family. Although it’s hardly likely that Daley would be short of people falling over themselves to hang about/off him, it’s still a demonstration of fearlessness that will mean something to many people.
Tom took control this week and we should applaud that, not try to take control away by thinking we have a right to have an opinion about him or what we’ve decided will definitely happen next.
Our sexual system isn’t that much different from the many other systems which govern our daily lives; it’s underpinned by fear and ignorance and no-one really know where it’s going, other than all wrong. Talking about it, fighting the fear, speaking small, seemingly insignificant truths can sometimes be a really big deal in actually changing things. If the way some have responded to what Tom Daley had to say demonstrates anything, it’s that we need to empower more people to feel safe enough to speak their truth – and show them the respect to actually listen, without jumping to conclusions.
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