Olympic diver Tom Daley is being widely reported today as having come out as “a gay man” on British television, after previously identifying as bisexual. Indeed, most outlets are directly attributing the quote “I’m a gay man now” to him. But look closer and it’s not quite that simple.
Tom’s apparent admission came on Celebrity Juice, hosted by “Keith Lemon”, a questionably funny alter ego of the comedian Leigh Francis. The clip seems only to be viewable currently as an embedded link on the Daily Mail (see here if you must) but here’s what happened.
Firstly, it’s the host Keith Lemon who says “So you’re a gay man now?”. As almost all outlets are failing to report, this was in fact a paraphrase of a catchphrase from The Catherine Tate Show, a popular British sketch comedy, which is far from irrelevant. Furthermore, when asked the question, Tom looks vaguely shocked and giggles out the words “I am”. So yes, under pressure and far from confidently, he confirmed Lemon’s statement. But not only did he not choose the words himself, even Lemon was only invoking a comedy punchline. This seems pretty far from Tom choosing to state, sincerely and in public, “I’m a gay man now”, as is most articles’ implication.
Why does it matter? Because this is being reported as Tom’s big switch from a bisexual to a homosexual identity. This may be the case, and it is hardly unprecedented if so, whether as part of a coming out process or a genuine shift in desire. But let’s not forget, Tom never actually called himself “bisexual”, only remarking in his original coming out video that he still fancied girls. He didn’t give himself a label then, and it’s not exactly clear how much he embraces the one the media are handing him today. Even if he does now consider himself a gay man, there’s every evidence that for him, his sexuality is more fluid and evolving than labels account for. It’s time we all caught up.