It’s been a while folks, and for that I apologise. I also hope you don’t mind this rather unorthodox blog post that has virtually nothing to do with Film or TV and contains a number of bits and pieces I wanted to talk about, shoved together under one heading.
It seems half of the country is reacting to the news of Tom Daley’s YouTube video with the words “that was pretty obvious” and the other half is reacting with the words “well done” or “that was brave”. Some are using the term “congratulations”, which just seems weird to me. He hasn’t just passed his driving test. Some are wondering why it is even making the news, while others are saying it is a huge breakthrough. But a breakthrough for who or for what?
Over the last seven years or so Tom Daley has found himself the country’s adopted (grand)son. We have followed him from a child to a man, through personal tragedy, through professional triumphs and disappointments. He was the poster boy for the 2012 Olympics. Other than perhaps David Beckham, his is perhaps the most recognisable sporting name in the UK at the moment and he’s not even a footballer. And this morning he admitted in a You Tube video that he was having a relationship with a man.
If Daley was a singer or an actor, nobody would give a damn – we have all gotten over the importance of sexuality within those contexts. But Daley is a sportsman, and for that reason alone this announcement was ultimately an important one not just for him (no doubt pulling the rug out from the newspapers waiting to break the story at the first opportunity) but also for the LGBT and sporting communities.
I’m no sports fan, but it seems that the sporting world is decades behind the rest of society. In the 2012 Olympics, just 21 out of 10,000 athletes were openly LGBT – the real figure was probably between 500 and 1000. Footballers are being subjected to racist chants on the pitch, and Daley is the first sporting household name ever to “come out” in this country. Yes, there was Justin Fashanu and Gareth Thomas before him, but neither were anywhere near as well known as Daley, especially prior to their coming out. The sporting world is so far behind the rest of society on this issue that the IOC’s response to the ongoing situation in Russia ahead of the upcoming Winter Olympics can only be described as pathetic, inadequate and even vaguely insulting.
Sadly, if sport in the UK was ever going to move forward on this issue, it was going to require a huge name to admit their sexuality and therefore give the confidence to others that they can do the same. And that is exactly what Daley did in his under-stated and eloquent video today – and that is one of the reasons why it is considerably more important than a singer or actor declaring their sexual preference, which seems to happen on a weekly basis.
And yet, despite stating clearly in his video that he did not want to be misquoted, he has been misquoted all day on the media. He never said anywhere that he was gay, or that he was bisexual. He is simply in a relationship with a man. This in itself is important – a high profile figure has refused to enter the world of pigeonholing their sexuality. Youngsters will see the video and know that someone like them are confused or not sure or simply don’t care what they are and are just going with the flow. And that’s OK too, right? Not everything in our lives is black and white; we don’t have to fit in with everybody else; we are all individuals – and that is something to be celebrated, not something to be twisted so that your words fit in with the limited understanding of sexuality that society is willing to allow and accept. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and other terms are rigid boxes and we’re not all made to fit into a box. This also applies to the “that was pretty obvious” crowd – it clearly wasn’t obvious to the person in question. Not everyone with a particular tone of voice is gay, and not every butch bricklayer is straight.
While it’s easy to praise Daley’s bravery (if that’s the right word), let’s also not forget that there is a likelihood that he ultimately had little choice in the matter. Our press would eventually have got the evidence they required and would have printed the story with or without Daley’s co-operation. As much as I applaud his “coming out” (and I continue to use that term loosely) considering his chosen profession, I applaud even more the fact he did it on his own terms and in a video that was seemingly unedited and unrehearsed. It’s also a video that is as awkward and uncomfortable as every coming out experience and is, perhaps, the closest approximation anyone will see or feel of the coming out experience that so many have to endure, not just once, but with every new friend we make after that first bumbling announcement…just without the crying parents who (hopefully) will tell you they still love you and you’re still their son (or daughter).
Daley’s coming out will, hopefully, have a double effect. The fact that the country has watched him come of age on their TV screens will hopefully make the remaining doubters realise that the son/daughter/niece/nephew/grandchild you have seen grow up in front of you does not change when such an announcement is made. Secondly, here’s hoping that it does have a mammoth effect within the sporting world, and that there is a seismic shift over the next few years in acceptance of people within sport and sports fans (at least in the UK) no matter what their sexuality, colour or religion. That’s not going to happen overnight – and it needs to happen at every level, from the IOC to the local amateur football club changing room. Daley is right in saying his announcement should not be important or newsworthy, and yet it is probably more significant than he could possibly understand.
In other news, many of you that follow my postings here will know that I released a novel on Kindle back in February entitled Breaking Point. It deals with the subject of homophobia in schools and tells the story of not just the victims, but also the bullies and the teachers. Six thousand people have downloaded Breaking Point on to their Kindle, a figure of which I am very proud. The reviews on Amazon have been positive (and no, I didn’t pay them!). My plan with the book was to not just deal with homophobic bullying in general, but to talk about the types of bullying that do not get talked about or reported. For that reason, I confess it’s not exactly a light read, and I certainly never endeavoured within it to try to give easy answers to the issues. My aim was simply to give a voice to those that are bullied in this way and who feel unable to report it.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Breaking Point is now out in paperback. While I don’t expect it to shift in numbers like the Kindle version, I feel the additional format will allow libraries and, in particular, school libraries to stock the book – which I think would be a substantial step forward. The stage play of the same story will be made available in paperback in due course.
I’m sorry, folks, but a plug for a book isn’t complete without the link from which you can buy it. And so….
or, if you’re in the USA…
The various issues with the text found in the Kindle version have been corrected for this edition, and the Kindle edition has been updated.
And that’s about it. I will get back to blog post writing on a regular basis as soon as I can. My absence has been due to a flare up of bipolar, and so other things have taken priority, but things are pretty much back to “normality” now, and so the words will be flowing again soon about films you have never heard of!
I know the numbers reading these posts has increased drastically in recent months, and I thank my regulars very much. So, if we don’t have a little chat again before the big day, I hope you all have a great Christmas.