Ode to Sir Tom

Tom Daley ‘came out’ today and JOE GOODMAN has something to say about it.

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I don’t want to be too inflammatory here guys, but I think we might have found the new Jesus.

Tom Daley’s life has literally read like a PR textbook. Remember when he was a cute little kid jumping through hoops off skyscraper diving boards; and then when he was a bit older and became a sex-bomb; and then when he won an Olympic medal, in London nonetheless, and our beautiful nation went Daley-crazy. As if he wasn’t a national treasure already.

Well, it’s been a year or so, but he’s back, and he’s back with a bang! Off the board, out of the pool, we find him reclining on an assemblage of patriotic cushions with his perfect quiff and perfect face. And what’s he telling us? He’s seeing a guy.

It’s not really that crazy. I’m sure there were rumours for a long time. But we allowed it to pass because we accept people’s privacy, or more accurately because we couldn’t believe an Olympic level sportsman could exist outside of our hetero-norms.

As he says, in an ideal world he wouldn’t have made this video. In an ideal world, he shouldn’t have to ‘come out’. None of us should.

What does ‘coming out’ even mean? By coming out you’re basically defining a new bracket of gender norms – you can like girls or you can like boys and that makes you straight or gay. I like how Daley says his bit: he’s dated girls, he still fancies girls, but he’s found someone who makes him feel really great who happens to be a man.

Let's not daley ousting gender stereotypes

Let’s not daley ousting gender stereotypes

Thank you Tom! Isn’t that refreshing? Someone who’s not afraid to identify themselves outside of a narrow array of options. He’s not ‘coming out’, he’s redefining sexuality. And maybe, just maybe, he’s taking us with him.

This isn’t bisexuality, this is unselfconscious love. What happened to that, ey? Last time I saw it, it was between that Prince who gave up his throne to marry that ugly American woman, Wallis something. Or that actor from Boys, Thongs and Snogging who married his mum’s friend. OK fine, it does happen all the time, and I’m not denying it happens between conventional couples as well. But these instances, in particular, show people who were willing to step outside of the social cage and embrace their love for what it is.

I’m not a scientist, but I’m sure lots of you are, and I understand that sex drives are to a large degree biological. But love is more complex. If we were all relieved of centuries worth of social conditioning – rules that govern how men and women behave, how we treat each other relative to our sex – then maybe we could start to see past the superficial (and arguably artificial) façade that is our bodies, and be more like our lovely Tom. As humans, we are not totally biologically constrained. Culture has allowed us to bypass that. People are able to be gay or bisexual or transsexual. The next step is to remove these boundaries.

I’m not even saying anything that radical. We all know about homosexual practices in classical civilisation and rites-of-passage practices in some traditional societies. But there are instances of unbounded sexualities as well. The ‘Berdache’ (or two-spirit people) were a third gender in the tribes of North America. Whatever their biological sex, it was completely irrelevant to their identity. They could legitimately marry ‘men’ or ‘women’ from the community and it wasn’t ever homosexuality because they weren’t the same gender. See – it’s social.

OK, that’s the anthropology over with. I doubt Daley meant to say all this, but the clip really hit something in me. I ‘came out’ as gay. I identify as gay. I don’t think I’ve ever been attracted to a woman. But I like to think that I could be.

If someone had told me when I was 13 that liking boys wasn’t that big a deal I wouldn’t have had to be such a dramatic bitch to everyone for the next 5 years. If I’d seen our national hero and universal poster-boy speak out about sexuality in the way he did today, maybe I wouldn’t have been so self-conscious for half my life.

By making the video, Daley is not only blowing away our unhealthy stereotypes, he’s not only redefining our understanding of sexuality, he’s inspiring a generation of younger people to feel alright about themselves. People love Tom Daley, and people will continue to love him regardless of this video. I don’t want to encourage people to come out, I don’t want to encourage people to stay in. I don’t think it should even be a question. But until we reach that point, I can’t think of much better things for tomorrow’s youth than what I watched this morning.

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