Monday, December 2, 2013

YouTube: A Newer, More Efficient Way of Coming Out

Has the British diver Tom Daley, bronze medalist at last year's London Olympics, just introduced us to the future of coming out?  In a remarkable five-minute clip the 19-year-old posted on YouTube this morning (and linked to on Twitter, where he has over two million followers), Daley comes out as bisexual* and explains why he chose to do so in a homemade video and not the more traditional print interview or TV sitdown: "I didn't want my words twisted."

Daley's announcement, which includes the preface "In an ideal world I wouldn't be doing this video because it shouldn't matter," is admirable for a number of reasons -- it remains unusual, obviously, for anyone at the top of their sport to come out while they're still competitive, and Daley has very publicly dealt with bullying in the past (Jack William Cooper has collected at Storify some of the homophobic Twitter abuse that was hurled at him today) -- but as much as anything else I admire it for its simplicity.

Back in the late '90s and early 2000s, when I was a teenager coming out to friends and family by piecemeal (I did it on couches, in cars -- in all the places where my peers were having clandestine sex, I was bumblingly telling relatives I was gay), I would have loved to have so efficient a means of coming out at my disposal, but not everyone was online then.  If I had it to do over today, one quick text or e-mail blast and I'd be done: "Hey guys, I'm gay.  By the way, we're out of milk."

* 12/4/13 Update: Daley has since clarified to talk show host Jonathan Ross that he is not currently labeling his sexuality, saying, "Everything is all pretty new so I don't see any point in putting a label on it - gay, bi, straight, any of those kind of labels. All that I feel happy about at the moment is that I'm dating a guy and couldn't be happier, it shouldn't matter who I'm dating and I hope people can be happy for me." A question I'd like to see asked now is whether Daley's rumored boyfriend, Oscar-winning screenwriter and gay rights activist Dustin Lance Black, helped shape his YouTube speech or if that was all Daley. 

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