Tom Daley. Photo: Shutterstock

The OutField: Tom Daley Dives Into The LGBT Twittersphere

By Dan Woog

Another day. Another Olympic diver. Another coming-out story.

Tom Daley's recent video was remarkable for its unremarkableness. He never used the "g" or "b" word. He said simply, "In spring this year my life changed massively when I met someone. They make me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels right. That someone is a guy."

In today's age, that should be that. Speculation about the British medal winner's sexuality has abounded for years, with many men's gaydars going gaga whenever the 19-year-old popped up on the telly. (Women, don't give up yet. Daley said later in the video, "Of course I still fancy girls." Welcome to the 2010s.)

Predictable praise poured in. On Twitter, Facebook and other social media, Daley was lauded for his honesty, cited for his courage. In a non-Summer Olympic year, when news about divers rarely surfaces, Daley's turn in the media spotlight was largely positive.

But - just as predictably - haters gonna hate. It's easy to spew anonymous venom online, and spewers sprang into action. Sitting in their caves, they did their best to one-up each other with what they thought were clever, hilarious or "now-we've-really-got-him!" reactions.

It's as if Greg Louganis, Bruce Hayes and Matthew Mitcham never existed. Earth to homophobes: "Gay diver" is no longer an oxymoron. In fact, it's fast becoming a stereotype.

But on and on they sputtered, cloaked behind the anonymity of social media. "You just lost a fan, go to hell!!! Faggot" was a typical example. The fact that Daley had revealed a bit of information about himself - news about his love life that gets lapped up when a male athletes dates a female - was apparently enough to send some former fans into the deep end.

Like this one, who was so furious he forgot to use basic punctuation: "I can't believe Tom Daley is gay I'm not a fan of his anymore! he's going to hell it's Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve." I am sure Daley was gobsmacked by that clever witticism, which has only been heard 10 gazillion times, and debunked just as often.

No one has ever accused social media users of subtlety. (Or logic.) (Or intelligence.) "Tom daley. You're still a fag" was one pithy comment.

Another social media user managed to offend not just gays, but the entire special needs population too: "Anybody who couldn't see Tom Daley was a massive queer is completely and utterly retarded."

Daley's video caused at least one Brit to consider renouncing his citizenship: "Tom Daley is gay I am now ashamed of my country ew we can't have a bloody fag representing us."

Of course, what's a coming-out party without the Westboro Baptist Church? A member of the infamous Phelps clan tweeted, "Olympic diver Tom Daley announces he's a fag (bi-pervert) u all lap it up in wake of #GlasgowHelicopter." Miraculously, the uber-Christian mini-sect found a way to tie together the crash of a police chopper into a Scottish pub and the coming-out announcement of a diver from England. Well done, lads!

However, celebrities - the non-Westboro Baptist Church kind - came out in droves to support the newest openly gay Olympic diver. (They used their real names, too.) Boy George wrote, "Good for you TomDaley and let that be the end of it!"

Kyle Minogue called Daley "inspiring and brave ... as always!!!"

English musician Lucy Spraggan put into words what many straight women and gay men have been thinking, regarding Daley's hotness: "Insane amount of love for TomDaley today, the only man I've ever googled imaged to admire the beauty of!"

Welsh rugby star Gareth Thomas cited Daley's youth, and the fact that "he's fairly near the start of his career. It's a great positive message to the world. (His announcement) ...is not only testament to him but to society." Thomas - who came out four years ago, at age 35 - added, "When I was playing it just wouldn't have been possible to come out at his age in the rugby world. It was a very much different place and I wouldn't have found the acceptance that I found when I eventually did do it."

All snarky comments aside, Thomas is right. In the end, we're talking about real people, real lives, and real role models. One social media user nailed it, insightfully and poignantly: "Is it any wonder some LGBTQ young people would rather take their lives then deal with the kind of vicious attacks that are evident in the disgusting tweets sent to Tom Daley? He is a courageous young man and should be applauded for being brave enough to be who he is in a world that is populated by people who find too many reasons for too many people not to accept themselves."

Dan Woog is a journalist, educator, soccer coach and gay activist. His latest book is "We Kick Balls: True Stories from the Youth Soccer Wars." He can be reached care of this publication or at OutField@qsyndicate.com.

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