I WONDER what Tom Daley hoped for when he released his coming-out video on YouTube?
Acceptance, understanding, the right to be a 19-year-old in love for the first time without hordes of photographers following his every move?
To me each one of those ambitions seems eminently reasonable, even if the latter seems sadly unlikely. But did he bargain on the outpouring of “so what label do we use?” and “what does it mean?” and “why does he have to tell us anyway?” Probably not.
He didn’t say he was gay, it’s true. He didn’t say he was bisexual either. So what? He said he was dating a guy and that he still fancies girls. I don’t mean to rock anyone’s world here, but that’s how it works for lots of people – we might prefer one sex to the other (and, sorry, but not all of us even do that), or we might choose to have relationships with only one sex, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate or be attracted to the other.
I know the whole “born this way” thing doesn’t really fit with this, but that’s why plenty of gay people – yes, I am one of them – don’t go a bundle on that argument. Sexuality is, if you’re lucky, complex and ever-evolving which means that although labels are useful for some things, they aren’t the be-all and end-all.
So, having spectacularly failed to clear that one up, as was my intention, what about the “why does he have to tell everyone anyway?” criticism. It’s interesting because it often comes from gay and straight people alike. The gay ones seem to think that acceptance is when we no longer have to say that we’re different. I’m not convinced actually, I think it’s when we declare our difference but do so without fear of what might follow.
But given that more than half of LGBT young people experience homophobic bullying at school and two in five who are bullied have attempted or thought about suicide, I’m going to stick my neck out here and say we still need people to come out so that some of those kids (and maybe the people who bully them) get to hear again and again that being gay really is OK.
As for the carpers who are straight, they often bang on about gay people banging on about their sexuality all of the time, but when they do that, what they fail to acknowledge is that the closet isn’t just a neutral space that we gaily step out of slamming the door behind us – it’s a swirling vortex of heteronormative (check me) behaviour that is forever trying to suck us back in. We have to keep coming out because people are forever assuming that we’re straight.
So what Tom Daley has done is important and brave and really rather brilliant. I raise my rainbow flag to him and I wholeheartedly hope that when he says he hopes that people can be happy for him, that really they can be.
HOW’S your Christmas shopping going? If the shine’s come off buying stuff you don’t really want for folk who don’t really need it, then may I gift a solution or two? How about Refuge’s gift list? You can choose things from as little as a fiver for women and their kids living in refuges this crimbo. Go to the John Lewis website and type in the gift list number 564013. It’s open until 18 December. Or how about a pressie or two for the Glasgow Women’s Library? They’re looking for a few housewarming gifts – table lamps, a tea urn, vases and sandwich boards among other things – to help them to settle into their new home on Landressy Street. Check out their website (womenslibrary.org.uk) for details.
ONE thing that I definitely do not want, just in case you are wondering, is a mood sweater. I do not need an item of clothing that lights up in a different colour depending on how I’m feeling. Created by design lab Sensoree, the GER Mood Sweater uses the same technology as lie detector tests to reveal the wearer’s disposition in a colour-changing collar. Basically, you wear sensors on your hand which transmit levels of skin stimulation to the collar. Blue and you’re “calm, relaxed”, purple and you’re “ruffled, aroused, excited”, red and you’re “nervous, in love”. What colour do you think outrage might be? «