Last week, British Olympic Diver Tom Daley revealed his new relationship with a man on his YouTube channel. Naturally, the media went wild. The response has been mostly positive—but a quick Google search of his name brings up articles titled “Tom Daley Comes Out” (Huffington Post), “Diving champion Tom Daley reveals he is gay” (Times of India), and “Diver Tom Daley announces he is gay in YouTube video” (La Crosse Tribune).
These news articles are affirming something that isn’t true, and devaluing what is: Daley never says at any point in the video that he’s gay.
Proving his exact reason for making the video in the first place (“I don’t want to get my words twisted”), the media has branded Tom with this label, but it’s clear he’s not interested in any labeling of himself. He says “I still fancy girls,” but the press has only paid attention to the fact that he’s dating a guy. So that makes him gay, right?
The erasure of bisexuality (or the fluidity of sexuality, period) is a problem that gets ignored far too often. There is so much “grey” on this black and white spectrum that it’s upsetting to see Daley reigned into a label that he isn’t claiming. His relationship is new and feels right, but he isn’t gay, and it’s not up to us to label the sexual identity he’s still figuring out himself.
Bisexuals and people of the non-binary are written off far too often as “confused” or “indecisive,” and grouped into the sexuality of their partner as a way to keep things black and white.
Say it with me: sexuality is not explicitly based on a relationship.
As a society, the lack of a consensus on acknowledging sexual fluidity keeps people like Daley in hiding for fear of not being believed or rejected from the media. Ezra Miller has never hidden his queer identity and is quite comfortable being asked about it, but not everyone is so fortunate. Celebs like Margaret Cho, Alan Cumming, Andy Dick and Cynthia Nixon have all expressed being either queer or bi while having same sex or opposite sex relationships, and have been consistently denied that identity by the media. Even I was “surprised” to find out that some of these stars identified as queer because all their publicity was pushed with them as gay. While sexual identity should not play a huge role for someone’s character, the erasure of chosen identity is important to note.
Daley acknowledges this himself when he says he realizes “people will call [him] a liar,” because being attracted to more than one gender or sex is so readily available to be rejected as an untruth.
Already people have expressed their discontent with the video, for Daley’s insincerity. But the point is being missed. In an era of falsities, where anyone’s words can be misconstrued, to hear someone speak for themselves should be welcomed. No one can define another person’s sexuality, but the media tends to take the liberty in doing this themselves, purely on speculation and assumption. But when the admission comes directly from the person in question, no matter the venue, it’s never genuine enough.
What the media needs to grasp is that no matter how it’s being presented, any public expression of sexuality to a people it doesn’t concern should be appreciated. Daley didn’t have to tell us he was dating a man, but he did. In reality, he owes us, the greater population, absolutely nothing.
If someone is willing to trust enough to discuss their sexuality, it should be taken at face value and nothing else. Assuming and labeling someone as something without their consent isn’t okay, because the identity they want to present is being denied.
So to Tom Daley: good for you, honey. You date that boy. Or those girls. Or those them. Be what you want and let the rest follow. Labels are only good to present information, not to define how you feel on the inside.