In December last year Tom Daley uploaded a video to YouTube, in which he explained that he was in a gay relationship. The move was prompted by a desire to be honest with the public, and to explain his feelings on his own terms. The video was quickly picked up by media, and news spread that he was bisexual. However, in his recent appearance on ITV’s Celebrity Juice, he identified himself as gay.
As with his initial coming out, the story has spread across the internet, but the change in terms has been met with a wave of criticism. Some have assumed that the original video was deliberately misleading, using bisexuality as a ‘stepping stone’ before coming out as gay. He has also been accused of propagating the ‘bi now, gay later’ myth, whereby a bisexual person is said to be ‘on the way’ to full homosexuality, and therefore that bisexuality doesn’t exist. In the LGBTQ community, this false dichotomy is a real problem. Others have suggested he had difficulty coming to terms with it himself, and should not have spoken out until he had.
However, there is no justification for saying that somebody should only come out when they’re certain. ‘Queer’ has a place on the LGBTQ acronym partly because many people know they’re not straight long before they can place themselves on the spectrum. Making the decision to come out at all is a huge step, and even more of a leap of faith for someone in the public eye. Celebrities’ private lives are freely pried into by the media; Daley spoke of constantly being asked if he had a girlfriend, the very question assuming that he must be straight, because he had not yet said otherwise. His anxiety can be clearly seen in his video; his hand, and therefore the camera, starts to shake as he builds up to the revelation. Ellen Page, who came out in her more recent speech at a Human Rights Campaign conference, was close to tears. That Daley able to come out when still uncertain is, surely, even more of an achievement.
Most importantly, Daley’s correction teaches an important lesson: questioning is an integral part of the process, and those going through it need just as much, if not more support than somebody who is certain. Daley made have come out prematurely, or he may have felt certain and found his feelings changing, but all love is complicated. Figuring out whether you’re attracted to someone, regardless of who that person is, can be a difficult process. When that question has a direct impact on your own identity, and how you are viewed by society, it’s even harder. Tom Daley is nineteen years old; he is perfectly justified in not quite knowing who he is yet.