The Daley Lama

Rhys Harper

Much as I would like to laud myself as toned, tanned and beautiful, I must sheepishly admit up front that these aforementioned qualities are ones I do not in fact share with Olympic diver Tom Daley.

In fact it really ought to be said that there are not many apparent qualities I do share with the bronze (and bronzed) medallist, besides a slight lisp and a brutal addiction to toothpaste. My skin is a dingy shade of Morticia Addams-with-a-strain-of-food-poisoning porcelain, my body is as much a temple as it is a vintage hat store, and the one time I attempted a dive in my local swimming pool from the giddy heights of the 3ft board, the following ten minutes were spent coughing, spluttering and cursing the existence of chlorine (this is metamorphosing into a really fantastic singles ad right now, isn’t it?) There are worse things than not being an Olympian, of course. Take Splash!, for example (yeah, I went there).

What I do, however, share with Mr Daley is a certain affiliation with the 2nd December 2013 – in relation to our own, sigh, “coming out” stories. More than an affiliation in many ways; I am actually his boyfriend (I’m not). I do, though, owe him my eternal gratitude as it was his now-famous YouTube message this morning that spurred me on to inform my own parents of my incidental queerness. I don’t actually know exactly why I felt compelled to do it. One hot guy I have never met and probably never will meet being praised by Stephen Fry and Clare Balding should hardly amount to a wave – nay tsunami – of self-confidence and rainbow flag waving. And yet reading all of the positive reactions to Tom’s so-callled ‘announcement’ i.e. his clarification that the person he is seeing lacks a womb (admittedly it’s not the Iraq War) on Twitter this morning was, I must admit, reassuring, and a little heart-warming too.

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A great deal of praise was mounted towards his ‘coming out’ at the apparently “young” age of nineteen (surely most do so sooner?) which, coincidentally, is my age too. This was all the push I needed. To come out at nineteen would be honourable; to come out at forty would be downright cringeworthy.

After twenty minutes of pacing the kitchen and wiping cold sweat from my forehead, I charged into the living room where both my parents were spread out across a sofa each watching Time Team. Neither took any notice of me. I left the room, having only then realised I had to choose the words I wanted to use. To quote three (maybe four?) of the great sociological thinkers of our day: “You only get one shot so make it count. You might never get this moment again.” I returned, this time feeling more prepared. I stepped forward to check that both parents were still awake, and then Time Team finished.

Shit, I thought. I can’t come out to a DFS advert. And so, again, I retreated like a wounded Russian soldier into the hallway and there waited for three minutes until the next episode had begun. For a third time I entered the living room and closed the door behind me. I hovered. Tony Robinson fondled a jug. I hovered some more. Then I crossed to the centre of the floor, effectively demanding their attention like the true middle-child I am.

“I just need to ask you something.” Both became alert. “Are you aware that I’m gay? Like, do you already know?” Both nodded. Nodded and told me that they had known for a long time but hadn’t wanted to raise the subject until I was ready.

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“And you know that I’m going out with Ryan [my boyfriend]? And have been for about a year and a half now?” Again, nods. Plus more confirmations. YOU WANKERS, was my first reaction, though this mellowed into a slightly clipped “Oh.” And that was that. No tears. No smashed china.

Not a terribly dramatic experience, no, but then I never wanted it to be. As someone who views “coming out” as the nuisance tool of a hetero-dominant culture to distinguish between people and force them to make an admission of their perceived difference, it would be awfully suspect had I wept through mascara and donned a pair of denim I-AM-WHAT-I-AM hot pants.

But to live an honest life is lovely, and I must commend Tom for opening up on his love life enough to hopefully encourage others like myself to be more open about our sexualities, as I was today. One day it’ll no longer be necessary, and that day will be a longed-for: but in today’s world people like Tom Daley are magnificently important. Particularly the ones in Speedos.

About Rhys Harper

Rhys is a nineteen year-old Glaswegian journalist currently on his soul-searching gap year, minus the actual soul searching. He has written for a number of publications and regards himself as quite the political activist, though more in theory than in practice.