As I imagine most people are now aware, Olympic swimmer and Team GB national treasure Tom Daley revealed yesterday that he is dating a man. He made the video above in order to bypass the traditional media outlets, such as magazine covers and press ‘statements’, and to talk directly to his fans about an issue that was important to him.
Yet in a bizarre twist of irony he has managed to make not only the front page of The Guardian website, but also his “coming out” video was played in its entirety on the PM show on Radio 4 – no commentary, just the audio track from the YouTube video.
There is an obvious irony in this video going viral: first that everyone wants to talk about it in the first place, and the second is that a large proportion appears to be talking about how they ‘already knew’ anyway. The level of implicit homophobia here is so typical.
Just because a young man is in the public sphere for being good-looking, good at a watersport / dancing / acting / singing etc., everybody assumes that they know his sexuality before he does. It’s just so creepy.
The three most prevalent ‘jokes’ that are circulating on twitter at time of writing are (in order of offensiveness):
and in the second door of my advent calendar tom daley came out
— pri |fluffystyIes (@mistlehxrry) December 2, 2013
tom daley coming out as gay is like barack obama coming out as black — Santa (@SantaBanter_) December 2, 2013
And the typical gay sex reference from the obviously sexually repressed…
(these are simply three twitter accounts picked at random who have decided to write the same thing as many many others)
Every joke that is made by a (presumably) straight male about gay sex strengthens my conviction in the accuracy of Sigmund Freud…
Anyway…by using his own YouTube channel to get his message out to his fans (‘you guys’), he has also managed to inspire an unexpected curiosity from the so called reputable media – the institutions that usually attempt to circumnavigate celebrity gossip (or at least they pretend to). They have a stronger hold over the countries collective libido.
Radio 4’s decision to replay his message in full reflects the importance that they place on editorial neutrality, yet Twitter on the other hand insists on editing and comment through its very design. So the trivial medium that users use to search for information inspires jokes and gets the facts wrong (referring to him as gay instead of actually listening to the video), and yet the solemn medium that summarises the news of the day presents the information in full as if it is somehow ‘in the public interest’. But both distribute the information at a lightening speed around the country.
I’m fully aware that I’m contributing to the echo chamber of noise today, but I hope that if Tom ever read this (and why should he?!) he would appreciate that my only intention is to highlight the unspoken homophobia contained in the ‘coverage’ of this ‘event’ – he is just the most recent conduit.
A personal message can became gossip and then news with a speed that only contemporary social networking can provide. The speed and breadth of the ‘reporting’ seems to be at a direct proportion to the level of homophobia saturated through the society. The fact that it is news in and of itself proves more than the level of ‘positive’ reactions that people generally made online, the point is that it is only when it is not news will it be a positive story (or lack of one).
Finally, the reference to Obama above is a false equivalency: Whereas Obama’s ethnicity was always obvious and he was seen to overcome it to achieve greatness, Daley’s sexuality was unseen and therefore can only by definition have been a potential hindrance – hence the congratulations on it’s ‘final’ emergence.
One day a 19 year old sportsman will meet a young man that changes his world, and the country will not notice.