“So fucking what” is the chime of millions of people around the UK responding to news that Tom Daley is ‘in a relationship with a man’.
Within this ‘so fucking what’ camp of thinkers are the casual homophobes, those who see sex and love as private affairs and those who just don’t care very much about someone who can be involved with a programme as bad as Splash.
But of course it does matter. It shouldn’t, but it does.
On the fickle surface of it all you could argue that it matters because millions of people will watch his youtube video, because tomorrow’s papers will be filled with this story or because it will somehow help to break down lingering prejudice against a huge minority of people that don’t fit into the UK’s institutionalised heteronormative culture.
This is of course true, but more importantly than any of this is something probability suggests is currently taking place…
Somewhere in UK there is a young girl or boy that has been struggling with their own sexuality. What they feel comes from inside them, their heart, and they’re increasingly coming to realise that this is part of them for better or for worse. It both excites them but also strikes a note of fear through them.
At the same time, they live their lives surrounded by systematic tacit vitriol. Every day they go to school and hear homophobic banter that teachers fail to pick up on let alone punish. A few mates, who were brave enough to come out still experience bullying and harassment. Although it has died down in recent months, they still overhear comments about the “batty boy” and “stupid dyke”.
In the church they are told this feeling resting in their hearts is a sin, at the football ground they’re told it’s disgusting and in the papers it is at best, gossip.
The reality of their own internal feelings seem to be at odds to their surroundings.
But, in the midst of this, a widely loved sports personality manages to be open and honest about his sexuality. Despite the torrent of abuse that flows on twitter as inevitably as the coming of the seasons, Tom Daley has the love and support of his family, friends and literally millions of people all around the world.
The prospect of a life that allows for honesty, happiness and passion is illustrated before their eyes. If Tom’s loving father responded with the words, “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy” then the possibility of their own father responding with such warmth somehow feels more real.
A positive future, despite everything, is painted in front of them. For the first time in their lives they have, not so much a role model, as an illustration that it’s possible…to love someone of the same gender and be happy.
The simple fact is this, when you are raised surrounded by such vitriol, the faintest glimpses of such happiness can make the world of difference. Today Tom Daley has offered a gigantic wave of hope to millions.
And that is, at least in part, why it matters. Because in the words of Graeme Archer writing in the Telegraph, Tom “just did a beautiful thing”