As Tom Daley Comes Out

Tom Daley came out yesterday. Maybe you didn’t hear, or maybe you don’t even know who Tom Daley is. He’s an Olympic diver from Great Britain, and he won a bronze medal in London last year. He’s only 19 years old.

Tom Daley is also an incredibly fit, attractive dude; needless to say, I’ve known about Tom Daley since last year’s Summer Olympics. His big YouTube announcement yesterday certainly caught my attention and gave me lots to think about. Take a watch:

Because of all the trending tweets and articles, I already knew the video’s basic content matter before I even clicked play. As I watched, though, I was curious to see how exactly Tom Daley would come out.

Would “I’m gay” be the very first line out of his mouth?

Would he even use the word “gay” and spell it out so plainly?

What brought him to this pivotal moment?

In recent months I’ve grown quite curious, often obsessed, with how others tackle this awkward messy liberating coming out process. I’ve watched dozens of YouTube videos from teens and young adults confessing aloud what once was so very sacred and secretive.

My heart stirs and my soul resonates whenever I hear such candid confessions. After all, it’s a defining can’t-look-back moment when you depart from darkness and embrace the light — though, yes, we Christians could certainly debate to death the meaning of “light.”

As I wrote on National Coming Out Day last month, though, I don’t think anyone is benefited by a life trapped in shameful secrets. I like to think of “coming out” in terms far more meaningful than one’s mere sexuality.

But back to the video and the how and why of Tom Daley’s coming out.

He took the first 2 minutes to describe his distaste for “revealing” personal matters, but acknowledged the spotlight he unavoidably possesses as a world-renowned athlete. Then he started talking about relationships and one in particular that changed his life earlier this year.

At this point in the video, his delivery started to slow a little, and I could see the gears — those all too familiar gears — braking and escalating and clanking all at once behind his eyes. I could see it, because I’ve lived it myself so many times these last 7 years. I leaned in, knowing the moment, the big reveal, Tom Daley’s coming out was coming.

He talked about meeting someone special. Someone who made him feel happy and safe.

“That someone,” he paused, preparing himself for an Olympian-level plunge like no other. “That someone … is a guy.”

Tom Daley Olympic Medal

Do you have any idea how hard it was to find a shirted picture of Tom Daley?

His inner gears officially cranked and synchronized with the outer, his delicate confession made, Tom Daley went on to elaborate how he always thought “something like this” (still not using the g-word) could happen to him despite still “fancying girls.”

Side note: have I ever mentioned how much I love Brits and their fanciful dialect?

As of this posting, over 4 million people have watched Tom Daley’s video. I personally connected with so much from his five candid minutes.

First, as already stated, I love seeing darkness brought to light. Religious and moral beliefs aside, you can clearly see the difference in Tom Daley’s demeanor before and after his confession. That’s excess emotional baggage being forever shed; that’s real.

Second, I appreciate Tom Daley’s lack of a label. Plenty will call him “gay” or “bisexual” or whatever term you’d “fancy” — he simply stated where he was in his young journey. Looking back on my own story, and particularly my coming out post from June, I kinda wish I’d have approached this particular facet similarly to Daley.

I hate labels. Really, I do. I hate being boxed into something with no apparent way of escape or rescue. In a newsletter email after my coming out post, I stated my reasoning behind the term “gay” and how I don’t actually ever define myself in such ways.

Alas, it’s just easier to blog about something concrete like “gay” than something more elusive like “same-sex attracted but not pursuing those same-sex attractions in the form of a same-sex romantic relationship.”

Most of all, though, I resonate with Tom Daley’s age. He’s 19; I too was 19 when I first came out to my parents.

19 is a weird age. You’re about to expire as a teenager and suddenly be thrust into a twenty-something world full of foreign concerns like college loans and job searches and the fact that you still can’t grow an adequate beard.

(Maybe that last one was just me?)

And yet when I was 19, I wasn’t an Olympian medalist with over 2 million Twitter followers. I also didn’t have an eight-pack and a tightizzle British accent, but that’s beside the point.

Point is, Tom Daley just made a decision from which he can never retreat. And he made it at the same age I did. For 19 years, I legitimately thought I’d never tell a soul, and then, bam — many souls told. I’ve never looked back; I feel so free.

I yearn for these freeing moments for young people around the world. I don’t want them to live 40, 60, 80 years buried beneath their burdens.

Whether it’s an unknown teen or a very known teen, these kinds of YouTube confessions always rock me as I resonate with their dark weights being exchanged for the lightness of light. Seven years removed from my first coming out, I couldn’t imagine still being trapped in that black box at the bottom of an oceanic trench.

I’ve watched plenty of these coming out videos, but Tom Daley’s kinda inspires me to create my own coming out video someday. Perhaps in the new year.

Until then, fellow wanderers, embrace the light. Ditch the darkness.

It’s so scary, the light; it penetrates and exposes.

But let your eyes adjust a bit. Let your soul adjust.

Walk a lap or two and stretch your legs. I promise you’ll never want to refasten those shackles, crammed within a sunken box far too tiny and far too lonely.

  • MLYaksh

    Love your thoughts on this. I am with you- I am thankful for every person who opens up and is honest about who they are, even if our world views don’t line up perfectly. Shame thrives in the dark yet dies in the light. I wish I had learns this sooner. I’m proud of Tom Daley and his courage to open up to so many. It’s another example to us all to live in the light.

  • April

    It’s so refreshing to read your posts! Thanks for allowing yourself to be vulnerable and share your testimony and struggle. I’m also frustrated by labels – it’s how we separate ourselves from other people. We place God (and ourselves) in a box when we say that He only uses people who look or speak a certain way. I’m learning more and more how Jesus defines gender and love in bigger ways than we do. Keep up the fight! Greater is He that is in us than he who is in the world!

    • TMZ

      Thanks so much, April. Appreciate your readership and all the kind words. Indeed, greater is HE. Be blessed!

  • Great post, Tom! My personal belief is that closets are for clothes, and nothing else.

    • TMZ

      Wait, clothes go in closets and not overflowing suitcases??

  • Stanton Martin

    Thanks for the post, Tom. There’s something refreshing in being reminded that, no matter the secret, coming out seems to be a very similar process even across oceans and cultures. Same fears, same hurt; same hope. It’s one of those things that should remind us that we’re all the same underneath it all.

    • TMZ

      So true, Stanton. Revealing my own secrets over time has completely opened my eyes to how I’m not really all that different from others. Other Christians included.

  • LTB16

    I had never heard of him until I saw the article about him on Buzzfeed last night. Like you, I appreciate his lack of using a label. One of the things I struggle with is labeling myself with the “g-word.” I’m ready to break out of the darkness where the label can haunt me. I’ve been trying to adopt the philosophy of the only thing I want to label myself is ‘Child of The One True King.”
    But I also can resonate with 19. The first time I came out to someone was a few days before my 19th birthday. Definitely a weird, transitional age- I can’t imagine having gone any longer without at least one person knowing. The more people are willing to be vulnerable, the more we can all help each other.
    As usual, great post. Truly captured everything I was feeling when I watched the video.

    • TMZ

      Ah, 19. Oh to never be that age again. Though I’m certainly grateful for the pivotal things that started happening in my life then. Still. Awkwarddd times.

      I like what you said about vulnerability. It’s so true. The more open we all are, the more we can all help each other. Regardless the struggle.

  • Rebecka

    “Embrace the light. Ditch the darkness.” Love it!
    (By the way, I couldn’t grow a beard at 19 either…)

  • Jeremy Adkison

    Gods willing all persons can come out, and never live in shame, or be forced to love alone in silence by yourself, with the whole world passing you.

  • Amy H.

    I am so thankful that you found peace from sharing your story! I also loved your thoughts about labels. Your thoughts and other conversations that I’ve recently had with others inspired me to write on that topic at http://veggiesandotherthings.blogspot.com/2013/12/whats-in-name.html. I linked back to your post.

    • TMZ

      Thanks for the link, Amy! Glad my post could inspire you with a post of your own. Solid stuff. Looking forward to more of your blog!

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  • Louis Tavarez

    Haha. Leading up to his confession, I was really hoping he was gonna say the thing that “changed his life” was God. But I agree, I liked his delivery and the omission of the word “gay”. I really don’t like labels either because they are man-made. They are lies that society has spread to the world and they are not from God.