Comment: I made a mistake with my Tom Daley headline, but a mistake was all it was
This is the first time I have written a comment piece for PinkNews because I normally try to let the news speak for itself, but I think this warrants me weighing in, and I’ll always be the first to admit my mistakes.
Today Tom Daley released a YouTube video revealing that he is in a (what I would consider to be) long-term relationship with a man. I incorrectly reported that he had come out as gay, before the story was updated minutes later, but people did see the original, inaccurate headline.
Rather than engaging with accusations of biphobia, bi-erasure and others, on social media, or the comments section of PinkNews, I decided to address them here – that’s right Tom, not only did you reveal your relationship with a man today, but you’ve taken my comment virginity.
The first mistake I made was make a snap decision based on how other people had reported on the YouTube video. I accept that, being a large LGBT+ news outlet, we should pay more attention to, and be more sensitive around issues such as coming out, but being a small organisation, it is also in our interest to report first, and drive up our readership numbers to stay afloat and continue to be able to provide a service to the LGBT+ community.
Despite accusations that I did not watch the video, I actually watched through until about 30 seconds before the end. Admittedly this meant I missed the crux of what he was saying – that he still fancies women. He speaks earlier in the video of having dated women (past tense), which led me to assume that he was coming out as gay – an assumption I deeply regret.
This point also addresses accusations that the story came out of bisexual erasure. I initially had thought Tom was coming out as gay – I did not choose to ignore the fact that he says he still fancies women, rather my eagerness to get the story live meant that I missed out a crucial detail. Many, however, have pointed out that in the same way that he does not use the word “gay” in his coming out, he also does not say he is bi. I incorrectly labelled him as gay, however using the word bisexual to describe Tom would have also been wrong. This is all about what he identifies with, and it was not clear that he identified as bisexual, so much as that he could identify as pansexual. He also may not like to use that term.
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What is interesting about the video, is that Tom actually avoids using any label – perhaps he doesn’t identify with any label. This is important for me to realise, as well as my critics.
On that note, I also do not think it is fair for people to second guess, and make an assumption that Tom Daley is coming out as bi, and will later come out as gay. While I know that can (and does) happen, and is on occasion used by gay men as a stepping stone, that is for an individual to decide. I get the idea that labels are important for visibility and togetherness, but it is for Tom to decide if and when he will choose one.
While it is easier for me to personally identify with stories about openly gay men, or men who have sex with men, or queer men, as I identify as gay, and am engaged to a man, I do reject the idea that bisexual, lesbian and transgender people are allowed to fall by the wayside in my reporting. I do what I do because I have a strong passion for LGBT+ rights, which includes every group represented by that acronym. I genuinely care about people, and I feel saddened by the suggestion that there was some malicious intent in my mistake. Usually if I am unsure about a bi, lesbian or trans issue, I consult with someone who can advise the most appropriate way to report it.
To be clear – I messed up, and I take responsibility for the damage I may have caused through that. But in the same way I made an incorrect assumption about which term to use to describe Tom Daley’s sexuality, I would beg those of you accusing me of bi-erasure, to reconsider, and to accept that it was simply a stupid mistake, which I have done everything I can to put right.
I do note that many outlets, a lot of them bigger than PinkNews, are still using the word gay to describe Tom Daley, however I do concede that LGBT+ sites should be leading the way in correct terminology.
Tom, I am happy for you – I hope you will forgive my oversight, and I wish you all the best in your relationship. Isn’t that what all of this should be about anyway?
So, I made a mistake, I held my hands up, and corrected it quickly – now can we move on?
Joseph Patrick McCormick is the Deputy Editor of PinkNews.co.uk, and tweets at @JPMcCormick.