Tom Daley: 'The LGBT Community Is So Fractured Right Now'

by Emell Adolphus

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 16, 2022
Originally published on August 15, 2022

Tom Daley
Tom Daley  (Source:Associated Press)

Olympic diver Tom Daley is no stranger to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. He has spoken openly and honestly in advocating for transgender athletes to compete in competitive sports and has called out the Olympic Games for granting hosting duties to countries where homophobia is criminalized.

But in a new documentary titled "Illegal to Be Me," Daley turns a critical eye on his own country to talk about LGBTQ+ rights, particularly a lack thereof.

It's not that he didn't know from his own struggles just how nefarious homophobia can be. But he had no idea how detrimental its effects have been for countries in the British Commonwealth.

"Did you know 35 of the 56 countries involved in the Commonwealth Games still criminalize same-sex relationships and seven have the death penalty?" Daley shared in a deep-diving interview with The Guardian. The documentary is meant to be a buildup to the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

"In any of these 35 countries, it is illegal to be me," he explained. "I went on such a wild learning curve."

Another learning curve for Daley has been to be a good dad to his four-year-old son Robbie, whom he shares with his partner, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

Daley recently spoke about the pressures and expectations of being an LGBTQ+ parent. Although Robbie, who is learning how to swim, is "not interested" in diving, Daley seems to be driven by a need to make the world a safer place for his son.

"In 2022, the World Cup is being held in the second most dangerous country for queer people, Qatar. Why are we allowing places that aren't safe for all fans and for all players to host our most prestigious sporting events?" he questioned in a message last year. "Hosting a World Cup is an honor. Why are we honoring them? Holding a Formula One grand prix is an honor. Why are we honoring Saudi Arabia?"

Gay sex was legalized in England and Wales for consenting adults over the age of 21 (lowered to 16 in 2000) through 1967 Sexual Offences Act. But it continues to be majorly criminalized through Commonwealth countries, and Daley delves into some of the horror stories in the documentary.

"I met an athlete in Jamaica who came in a hoodie, and sat behind a curtain with her voice distorted. She didn't want me to know her name because their lives are in danger if they are named," he shared. "In Lahore, I spoke to an athlete that had to remain anonymous because she is incredibly high profile. She had a gay friend who was killed, stoned in the streets. An athlete in Nigeria told me one of his friends got lured in on a dating app, and then was stabbed to death and left to die in a pool of his own blood."

In addition to entrenched homophobia, Daley said he learned a lot about British rule that was "not OK."

"It feels as if we're trying to erase our history by saying, 'Look how much we're bringing people together now.' But we've got to acknowledge what happened. Hearing those stories, I had my head in my hands," he said.

As much as there is more LGBTQ+ visibility in sports, Daley said there is still a long way to go and the LGBTQ+ community must stick together to prevent laws from going backward.

Speaking about a brewing war between trans rights activists and gender-critical feminists, Daley said: "The LGBT community is so fractured right now over certain issues. And that's when the right are going to get us. They're going to try to break us down. And if you think they're just going to take away trans people's rights, you're wrong. It's going to go much further than that, and we have to stick together as an LGBTQIA+ community to stop that happening."

With light moments here and there, the full interview is quite the gripping read. Head over to The Guardian to read it in full.