When a poster boy for the London 2012 Olympics came out Monday, people rushed to dictate his sexual orientation.
Tom Daley, a 19-year-old bronze medal diver from England, announced through a YouTube video that he is in a relationship with another man.
From that, some media published headlines saying Daley came out as a gay man while parts of Twitter exploded with disgustingly homophobic posts.
But no where in his video does Daley define his sexuality.
“This year, my life changed massively when I met someone, and they make me feel so happy, so safe, and everything just feels great,” he said in the video. “And that someone is a guy.”
Shortly after, he continues, “Of course, I still fancy girls … [but] right now, I’m dating a guy, and I couldn’t be happier.”
From this statement, people online are claiming he said he still likes women in order to keep fans. And even more disappointing are those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community saying he needs to just say he’s gay because apparently, liking both men and women isn’t real.
Let’s get something straight: Daley is not required to define his sexuality to anyone, especially not on such a global level. No one is, and it’s not about being brave or transparent. No one is even obligated to define in concrete their sexuality to themselves.
On top of that, being in a same-sex relationship does not automatically label someone as gay or lesbian. If someone chooses to define their sexuality, they’re the one who decides it. Not relationships. Not people from the sidelines. No one reserves the right to label someone else’s sexuality — it’s that simple.
The reaction of some people telling Daley he needs to pick highlights an issue called bisexual erasure. While he doesn’t call himself bisexual, nor am I calling him one, the urge from others for him to choose one side or the other mirrors the situation that people face when they identify as bisexual.
Most people know what bisexual erasure or bisexual invisibility is, even if they don’t know the term for it.
I remember snide comments when one of my classmates came out as bisexual. People didn’t hide the remarks from his face.
Students would speak plainly in the halls and classrooms: “He’s just too afraid to say he’s gay” and “Face it, you’re a f-g.”
The media shows this ignorance often, too. And then on the falsifying side of bisexual erasure, people who say they’re bisexual but end up in relationships with the opposite sex are labeled as people who “dabble” in gay or lesbian acts for attention’s sake. This thinking assumes a person’s sexuality exists solely to be provocative to others.
And while there are people who end up labeling themselves a different sexuality down the road, that doesn’t mean they were lying in the beginning.
Coming out is not an easy step. It’s hard to be out and proud of who you are when people from both sides are shoving labels at you. Daley still deserves respect for publicly announcing his relationship with a man, even if he didn’t label himself in the video.
Sexuality is on a spectrum, and it’s fluid. Whether someone decides to identify themselves, respect them enough to realize it’s their decision.
and telecommunications major
and writes ‘The Dyessertation’
for the Daily News. Her views
do not necessarily reflect those
of the newspaper or The Daily.
Write to Ashley at email@example.com