The second incarnation of my blog
Reblogged from Why I envy Tom Daley’s coming out – Telegraph.
Tom Daley will always know the moment he told the world he was in a relationship with a man: shortly after 11am on Monday, when he tweeted out a link to a YouTube video with ‘something he had to say’. The announcement was sensitively, eloquently done, and the diver has been widely praised as a role model for gay and bisexual people thinking about coming out.
It is a big step for anyone to open up about their first love – gay or otherwise – in such a public forum. As has been written elsewhere, Daley’s announcement has a great significance in that it comes from a sportsman close to the pinnacle of his career.
But young people on the verge of telling friends and family that they are into members of the same sex should know that their own announcement will never be as straightforward as Daley’s.
The difference is that Daley will only have to do it once. Anyone who has the slightest interest in the diver’s sexuality (and many who don’t) now knows that he has a boyfriend but remains into girls.
Those of us without an Olympic medal and a couple of million Twitter followers have to declare our sexuality over and over again. Not – as some of the less enlightened below-the-line commentators on this site and elsewhere might argue – because we harbour an undue need to shove our private lives in people’s faces, but simply because it comes up.
After my first day in this job a little over a year ago, I went to dinner with five other new employees. The question was raised about who was in a relationship. A couple of the guys had girlfriends, one of the girls had a boyfriend, and two were single. I was the last to answer. I knew this was unlikely to be a hostile crowd; I had ‘come out’ to my family and friends back home several years ago and been open all the way through university. Yet, as I answered the question, I still felt an echo of the anxiety I felt when I told the first person I was seeing a guy.
Unless you have Daley’s level of fame and everyone knows already, the question of whether to bring up your sexuality is constantly raised. What about when a colleague refers to your male partner as a ‘she’? (Personally, I would correct them, but there are others who choose to reply in vaguer terms, talking about a non-gender-specific ‘they’ – which is as transparent as it is embarrassing to both parties.)
What about when an acquaintance tells you about their successes with online dating and suggests you set up a profile to find a girlfriend? What about when a colleague makes a close to the knuckle joke about homosexuality – do they think it’s acceptable because they know you’re gay, or should you say something?
Compared to dilemmas faced by gay people in Uganda, Russia and dozens of other countries, I admit that these questions of etiquette are very much First World problems. But they are faced by all gay people all the time, and in a way in which many heterosexuals do not think about.
When we talk about coming out as a single event, we are being dishonest about what this process – and it is a process – involves. You may be ready to tell your friends at one stage, siblings another, parents another. Even if you’re confident enough when you have your first relationship to make the announcement to these groups all at once, you’ll meet new friends if you go to university, and new colleagues as you move jobs.
Daley’s video is wonderful to watch and will help young people and other athletes to make similar announcements. But it was a perfectly executed dive, with only the slightest hesitation as he said “and that person is … a guy” before plunging into the news bulletins and international press as a bisexual man. For those thinking of following his example in speaking openly about a relationship, please do; but don’t worry if your announcement involves a little more splashing around at the edge of the pool.