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As the Sochi Winter Games enter full swing, we revisit why we need to celebrate our icons

“As a community it is time to embrace celebrities coming out however and whenever they choose to do so.  Just because you made that decision 20 years ago doesn’t make their experience any less valid”. 


Barry Church-Woods

Social media is an insidious thing.  Most of us use Twitter and Facebook by now to stay in touch with family and friends.  Many of us use it for professional purposes, others to share our opinions with the world and more than a slew create pseudo celebrity status by garnering rather large followings for their wit or advice.

They say that social media etiquette is to never say something you wouldn’t whisper to a stranger at a bus stop.  I don’t really do public transport, but I understand the sentiment and do on occasion get it wrong.

Recently, I’ve taken to using Twitter as a cultural barometer when I’m developing a blog.  Usually, I’ll take a poll of public opinion by hitting hash tags, following lists with similar interests to the topic or indeed provoking a reaction by posting something like this:


Generally it was met positively and got shared far and wide with general agreement, though there were also numerous retorts like ‘Oh come on Blanche!’, ‘WHATEVS’ and ‘Oh shut up!’

Tom Daley’s coming out yesterday has left me more than a little riled up.   We live in a world where we’re constantly seeking better role models for our LGBT youth; a world where someone like Ben Cohen is questioned daily for his motives in positioning himself as an LGBT icon, because even though he believes in equality “he’s not really one of us”.

By now you’ll have seen the hateful bile that came forth after Daley’s announcement.  Almost immediately amongst the thousands of congratulatory messages, a series of hateful homophobic jibes began to crest and fall on his Twitter account.  Name calling and statements about being ashamed to be British were some of the tamer elements of the attacks.


However, as awful and typical as these reactions are, I’m more concerned by the plethora of jokes and asides made about how everyone already knew.  A lot by ‘out’ gay men (for reference, I did do a bit of digging around this, I didn’t just assume they were gay because they were dressed like Kylie in their avatar).

Let’s get one thing straight (No pun intended).  I believe the intuitive ability to assess someone else’s sexual orientation exists.  In fact, I’ve read many fascinating studies on it and I’m always astounded at how easily we read non verbal communications.  Gaydar (or gay radar) is also predominantly the reason I managed to have sex as a teen.  Even in the 90’s times were different.  Not many people were out.

But there’s more than that happening here.  There’s a raft of people using this situation to get attention.  To have their egos stroked.  To assert their God given right to a digital told-you-so.

Regardless of what you though you knew about Daley and where he liked to dive in, until he made the conscious decision to acknowledge his preference, you were merely speculating.  Gaydar is not always accurate and let’s be honest, if the subject is attractive and in his/her prime (say perhaps an Olympic athlete) often gaydar can be confused with wishful thinking.  But I digress.

Yes, Tom Daley is in a gay relationship.  Yes, people have speculated about his sexual orientation for a couple of years now.  Yes, he has nice hair and dresses well.

As a community it is time to embrace celebrities coming out however and whenever they choose to do so.  Just because you made that decision 20 years ago doesn’t make their experience any less valid.

And I couldn’t agree with Gareth McLean’s sentiments more.

2013-12-03_1314Mocking people and making light of their decision to share the truth about who they are is ultimately damaging to their experience as well as the positive connotations of the act.  So let’s think about that the next time a well known sports personality talks publicly about who they love.  Lampooning them will only push others further back into the closet.  And that’s something none of us need.

On a positive note, there were thousands of great reactions yesterday.  Here are just some.

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Categories: Bisexual Celebrities Coming out Gay Lesbian LGBT Olympics Opinion Role Models Russia Sochi Transgender Winter Games

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