On December 2nd, British Olympic diver Tom Daley posted a 5-minute long YouTube video entitled “Something I want to say…” (If you haven’t seen it, go watch it. It’s quite touching). In his video, Daley reveals he recently began dating a guy. Almost a week later, this video has garnered 9,714,462 views, and the media has pounced all over it.
Some headlines responding to this video include:
- “Yesterday Tom Daley came out as gay in a heartfelt YouTube video” (Daily Mail)
- “Diving star Tom Daley announces that he is gay” (Sky Sports)
- “Tom Daley: 5 Things To Know About The Bisexual Diver” (Hollywood Life)
- “Sports star reveals bisexuality” (The West Australian)
If you do a quick Google search of Daley these days, countless other headlines just like these will pop up. However, there are a a couple (major) problems with these headlines, articles, tweets, and general reactions to Daley’s video.
In his video, Daley makes several important points. Let’s start with his actual moment of “coming out”. Daley says, “I met someone. And it made me feel so happy, so safe, and everything just feels great. And…well that someone...is a guy."
The only thing Daley says here is that he’s dating a guy – no label, no justification – just a statement of fact. His current romantic partner is male. Daley does not put forth any labels surrounding his sexuality. Dating a guy could mean any number of things… gay guys date guys. Bisexual guys date guys. Pansexual guys date guys. Anyone that falls between 1 and 5 on the Kinsey could date a guy. I mean let’s be real. There are gay women who date guys, straight guys who date guys, people who choose not to label their sexuality that date guys… the list could go on forever.
The point is, whom you date doesn’t have to define your sexuality. Of course, it can if you want it to. But that’s the thing: labels should be all about what you want them to mean.
Unfortunately, this is a concept that far too many people aren’t ready to wrap their heads around. We as a society have a compulsive desire to put everyone in a box: male or female, straight or queer, hot or not… again, the list goes on infinitely. And when it comes to people in the public eye, we’re even quicker to label and box.
By labeling Daley’s sexuality for him, the media is putting him in a box. This essentially says, “Your sexuality is not for you to decide – it’s for the public to decide and control.” In any situation, that’s terrible. But it pisses me off so much more because Daley made a definite point in saying, “I don’t want my words to get twisted,” in his video. All he wanted was to make a video that set the record straight in his own words. And what do we do? We take his words and spin them.
Even though the fact that people other than Tom Daley are trying to label Tom Daley’s sexuality is problematic, the actual labels we use create even larger problems themselves. As I said before, any number of sexual beings might want to date a guy. By labeling Daley as gay, we are completely disregarding the fact that he said, "Of course I still fancy girls. But right now I'm dating a guy and I couldn't be happier." A guy gay could certainly date a girl. Labels aren’t infinitely rigid like that… unless, of course, you ask the general population. Gay is taken to exclusively mean “dude on dude” to the majority of our society. But since Daley mentions he’s still fancies girls, he complicates the “gay” label some people are putting on him.
But at the same time, maybe some people are trying to be progressive and understanding. “Okay,” one might say. “Tom is dating a guy right now, but also likes girls. That means he’s bisexual. I can get behind that.” Sure, this train of thought is a little more open-minded than just assuming that Daley’s gay because he’s dating a guy, but we don’t know if he’s bisexual. We don’t know if he even identifies anywhere on the queer spectrum. For all we know, Daley could consider himself heterosexual. Or heteroflexible. Or something entirely different. Or without a label at all. We just don’t know.
In his video, Tom Daley makes a point in saying, "In the ideal world, I wouldn't be doing this video because it shouldn't matter." Of everything said in his video, this is the most important. There is no reason whatsoever that we should even be concerned with Daley’ sexuality. In the ideal world, no one would be concerned with one another’s sexuality; we would just go through life, being attracted to whomever we might find attractive and doing what we will with that. Sexuality wouldn’t need labels, rigid or otherwise. Maybe we can use Tom Daley’s announcement as a teaching moment and new model for sexuality. Labels aren’t important. What’s important is that you feel safe, happy, and right with your significant other.