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Sport

Tom Daley thinks ‘growing as a queer person is very challenging’ as he reflects on coming out journey

Josh Milton November 18, 2020
Tom Daley shirtless and waving

Tom Daley at the FINA/CNSG Diving World Series at the London Aquatics Centre. (Chloe Knott-Danehouse/Getty)

British Olympic diver Tom Daley has revealed that coming out in a YouTube video in 2013 was “one of the scariest things” he’s ever done and that “growing up as a queer person is very challenging.”

Speaking to celebrity stylist Andrew Gelwicks for his upcoming book The Queer Advantage: Conversations with LGBTQ+ Leaders on the Power of Identity, Daley said he was “terrified” when he pressed the ‘send’ button on the video clip, Glamour reported.

“I wanted to get people off my back, continuously asking questions about my love life,” he said of the video, in which the then 19-year-old Daley, resting against Union Jack pillows, blushingly told viewers he was seeing a man.

“I knew I had found love,” the now 26-year-old Daley, who is still 99 per cent abs, said. “And I wanted people to know that.

“Doing a YouTube video was the way I communicated with my fans and was the only way I could say exactly what I wanted to say without getting my words twisted.”

In the YouTube video, the Olympic bronze medallist said he wanted to “to put an end to all the rumours and speculation, and just say it, tell you guys”.

“Is it a big deal? I don’t think so,” he said.

Eight years on, and Daley mused that “there are so many ways a queer person can be, look, and feel” when asked whether the world’s perception of queer men is “changing”.

Tom Daley (L) and Dustin Lance Black. (David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

“The whole perception of what is ‘right’ is forever changing,” he said. “What is a family supposed to look like? What are you supposed to look like? How are you supposed to be? I don’t think the question should be about how people perceive queer men, but how people, in general, can be perceived.”

Indeed, Daley went onto go public with his relationship with screenwriter Dustin Lance Black – the two getting married and having a child years later.

To straight athletes, Tom Daley coming out was no big deal. It was the fans who treated him differently, he says. 

Daley said that “growing up as a queer person is very challenging. You are always told that you are different and you are less than. That automatically puts you on the back foot and you have to work even harder to prove yourself.

But he stressed that those “obstacles are what have shaped me as an athlete and learning not to care about other people’s opinions and what nasty things other people can say.

“The best thing to do is concentrate on you and loving who you are.

“When you are always seen as an outsider, you have to work even harder,” he continued.

“That also comes from myself growing up and feeling like I needed to prove myself by being good at something to make up for feeling like I was letting everyone down with my sexuality.”

Looking back, Daley reflected, did top straight athletes treat him equally? Pretty much.

But in echoing the frustrations of the queer athletes who have comes out since him, Daley said it was the fans where the “differential treatment” tended to come from.

“Within sport, we are only as good as we are on the field of play,” he said. “Our love life isn’t a factor in what we do as sport.

“In diving, I am judged for how I do my dives. Not who I love. When fans of sports that are less accepting of LGBTQ+ people can see them as human beings playing the sport they love, I think we will see a lot more sportspeople come out.”

More: coming out, dustin lance black, Gay, Queer, sport, tom daley

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