So, is it safe to come out yet? Safe to log on and view my Twitter or Facebook profiles? Have the haters gone yet?
Browsing my Facebook timeline earlier yesterday, I came across Tom’s initial posting and clicked to watch the video – hey, I’m only human! And here’s what I thought…
I was bowled over, in awe, and somewhat ashamed. Here was a 19 year old, making a statement about whom he loves, and as part of the process, about his sexuality. It raised quite a few questions in my mind, not least being when was the last time a straight sportsman or celebrity did the same? When was the last time someone straight had to garner their courage and discuss their love for someone of the opposite sex with their parents, friends, siblings, wider family – let alone the world’s media. And also, if we or they had to, would it be done in such an amazingly simple way?
One comment Tom made in the video was about discussing this with friends and family and there being the suggestion about doing it in a magazine or on a TV programme, but instead he opted for a simple home-made video, something that looks like he’s just making a video message for his legions of fans, gay and straight, bi or trans, young and old. It felt like a chat, not a major, cue fanfare, blazing media circus of an announcement.
I love that he’s found love. I love that he’s ambiguous about his sexuality, I love that he chose his words carefully but most of all I love that he did choose his words and make some kind of statement. He stood up, he’s taken a verbal or twitter beating because of it, but he made a stand.
He’s now up there with other role models for young teens who get bullied into staying firmly inside the closet for whatever reason, he may give some of them courage to make that announcement and deal with the results.
Now we come to the hate. I hate that people need to have an opinion on someone else’s sex life – funny really since I am writing this, after sharing his video several times yesterday on my own timeline. I hate haters. Why do people feel compelled to do this? Why make a comment? It seems like we all want a voice now, and Facebook and Twitter gives us a chance to be heard – but I despair at the level of hatred he’s faced for simply being honest. It’s almost damned if you do, damned if you don’t? If he’d stayed closeted and lived a secret life, an unwritten and unacknowledged open secret, then would the LGBT community hate him as much?
I find it odd that just as Stonewall is launching a campaign to get us all to examine the words we use, especial in using gay as a derogatory term, along comes the word fag – and boy did it get overused yesterday in the abusive messages Tom received. We’ve seen some high profile cases recently where online abuse has been showcased and highlighted and even prosecuted but this seems to have been forgotten! I like that some online articles have shown up these individuals, named and shamed them in articles, showing these haters for what they are. I also love that Mr. Daley did not take the bait!
Also, I was disgusted with some of our own “community” and their posts – especially the ones stating that anyone supporting Tom over a “certain age” were pedophiles? Really? I’m nearly 50, and aside from the fact that Tom is cute, has a great body and looks good in trunks, I have admiration for him and his statement – why does this mean that other gay men can label me with that title?
So, yes, there were more important stories yesterday – wars still rage, food banks are still being set up to help UK citizens eat, nature still takes its toll with storms and famine but yesterday, a 19 year old felt compelled to make a statement. He is famous, he’s a celebrity, and he beat the gutter press to their exclusives.
At the end of the day, he’s an Olympian, he’s young enough to go to the next few Olympics for us, he’s a celebrity and building a career for when his sporting career ends, and he’s found love. Lets simply celebrate that last bit and let him get on and enjoy it, can’t we?
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