Having recently watched a YouTube video concerning Olympic medallist and British diver Tom Daley, in which he chose to reveal to his many fans and followers that he is bisexual, I encountered a string of controversial comments both in favour and against not only Daley’s decision to inform his fans, but also his sexuality in itself.
At time of press, (04/12/13), Tom’s video had already received over 7 million views on YouTube
For the last 6 years, Tom Daley has inspired the nation with his level of talent, aptitude and his constant drive to perform to the best of his ability, and many I am sure were more than proud to witness Daley’s triumphant achievement during the London 2012 Olympic games. But the golden question here (if you’ll pardon the Olympic pun), is do we as a society forget such achievements, when we focus most of our attention on whether or not an athlete, or other inspirational figure, define themselves as heterosexual or homosexual?
One problem could be linked to the ideology of the typical ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ stereotypes that many cultures, particularly Western societies have adopted. David Cloete, for instance, who was against Daley’s decision to ‘come-out’ went on to describe Daley as having ‘a narcissistic personality disorder’ for doing so. This implies that homosexuality can be read as a disorder in which treatment is essential and to embrace it publicly as well as privately is wrong. Most of the viewers who commented on this video however, supported Daley’s decision to make it. In particular, viewer Robin Greatbatch; who in response to earlier comments suggesting that homosexuality is unnatural, retorted with ‘Many things have been unnatural. Women having the vote, the processed food you eat, wearing clothes, even interracial relationships today can still be seen as unnatural. But it is not for us to dictate what is natural or not’. Does this mean then that homosexuality and bisexuality, like heterosexuality, is a product of nature and is present at birth?
The American Psychological Association for Mental Health explains that ‘There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation’. We can draw that in this sense, sexual orientation is not a choice as some have put it in the past, but is instead innate in all of us, and I believe that to deny our sexual desires is also to deny our own identities and to deny what makes us human. Therefore as stereotypes are inflicted upon us, must individuals who identify as LGBT deny who they are and become personality-less drones in order to keep up appearances?
As explained in the video, Tom Daley chose to disclose his bisexuality as a means of preventing the press and media from twisting his words and misinterpreting his true intentions.
Co-editor Zoe Alford highlights the significance of the common error made by the press when she states ‘What annoys me about this is that Tom currently identifies himself as bisexual, yet the media has boxed him in as coming out as ‘gay’, which completely ignores bisexuality as a category of personal identification. It shouldn’t matter or not whether he dates men or women, he’s still a great athlete, irrespective of his personal life’.
Whereas Geography student Pauline Beck comments further saying ‘I would define people more by what they do rather than who they have sex with, and that is why I think we shouldn’t make such a fuss about it because it helps to define people as only being gay or straight. We are more than a sexual preference as far as I’m aware’.
English student Holly Miller is also in favour of Daley’s decision to broadcast the video when she says ‘I think it’s sad that anyone cares. Tom is a brilliant athlete and his career is worth far more column inches than his sexuality. It shouldn’t matter to anyone whether he has fallen in love with a man or a woman. Love is love’.
Contrastingly however, Psychology student Benjamin Ho suggests that it is the nature of Tom Daley’s profession and image in the public eye that effects the way in which the public view his sexuality when he says ‘Whilst it’s great for Tom to say he’s bisexual and there’s been a load of support for him, I feel that society should do more to make LGBT a societal norm. For example Freddie Mercury was gay, but we don’t recognise him as a gay man, we recognise him as one of the greatest singers of all time and I want this to be recognised with Tom Daley and other people’.
Freddie Mercury, one of this country’s greatest performers, was reluctant to talk about his relationships with men during his lifetime, showing how much attitudes to sexuality have changed over the last 20-30 years.
So there you have it – the blurry acceptance of homosexuality and media dismissal of bisexuality unfortunately is still an issue even in our culture today. But do you think that should be a need or demand for celebrities and ordinary homosexual/bisexual people alike to present ‘coming-out’ videos on social media websites? And do you think, in relation to the discussion that fixed gender and sexual stereotypes, that this focus on ‘coming out’ impinges our ability to see people for who they are and not for their sexual orientation(s)? Let me know any thoughts and feelings you have on the subject by commenting below.
By Naomi Dunn