Olympic gold medalist diver Tom Daley uses platform to advocate for LGBTQ rights – Reuters

By JULIE CARLE

BG Independent News

Olympic gold and bronze medalist and two-time world diving champion Tom Daley is a beacon for LGBTQ rights.

He captivated and charmed a theater full of fans and onlookers at Bowling Green State University on Thursday night with tales of his 21-year diving career, reflections on his LGBTQ advocacy journey and even a whimper of a joke from father.

Adrenaline-seeker diver

Daley, who grew up in the UK, started diving aged seven and seven years later competed in the Beijing Olympics.

“There is something about diving that I found so captivating. I’m a bit of an adrenaline seeker. I love doing things that kinda freak me out, whether it’s roller coasters, theme parks, horror movies or whatever you shouldn’t like but love,” he said. declared.

The adrenaline rush is important on every dive because without it, complacency can sabotage a diver’s concentration. “Every time I step onto the (diving) platform I am terrified. Every time I got used to staying on the edge, something went wrong,” he said. “Without that hyper vigilance, I think you’d be making a lot more mistakes.”

Over time, Daley learned to stay focused by balancing fear and relaxation using visualization, breathing and meditation techniques. This balance is crucial due to the high stakes of the Olympics which comes down to six dives every four years, Daley said.

“I try to visualize a dive as if I was watching it on TV or sometimes as if I was actually diving. I try to do it a few times before I leave the platform, so I’m comfortable with it,” he explained.

He also recently added knitting to his relaxation process when there is time between dives. Knitting keeps him calm and has become his way of “getting out of my head and being calm”.

Daley recently launched Made With Love knitting kits to encourage others to experience the same kind of joy he found in knitting.

The Beginning of Advocacy and Beyond

Daley’s advocacy for gay rights began after his own exit in 2013. There had been speculation about his sexuality, but in 2013 he met and began a relationship with American screenwriter, director and producer Dustin Lance. Black.

He had a lot of people telling him he shouldn’t come out lest he lose his fan base and the sponsorships and income that helped support his family after his father’s untimely death in 2011. They also feared that he does not compete in the countries. where it was illegal to be gay.

He chose to come out through social media because it was the vehicle he used to connect with the most people. He created a YouTube video where he could say exactly what he wanted without having to answer any follow-up questions. “It was very empowering to take control of my own story,” he said.

He and Black married in 2017 and had a son through surrogacy in 2018.

[RELATED: Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black testifies to the power of stories to change hearts, minds, & the world]

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, he won a gold medal in synchronized diving and realized that “in two-thirds of the Commonwealth it was illegal to be me. I thought of how lucky I am to live freely as a homosexual in his country. With this realization, her activism began to take hold.

Black, whose screenplay for the 2008 film, “Milk,” suggested Daley watch the film about gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk to better understand queer history.

According to Daley, Black told him, “Maybe you should think a little about so many people who have come before you to understand the privilege you have now.”

“It’s not just about understanding history, it’s about appreciating what happened before and not being content with where we are now. If we don’t keep fighting and defending the rights we have today, they will be taken away from us,” Daley said.

In 2021, Daley was one of the few gay men to win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics which were delayed for a year due to COVID-19. After the win, he sent a message directly to LGBTQ youth that they weren’t alone.

“During my live press conference, I said I was proud to be an Olympic champion who also happens to be a gay man. That should send a message to all you queers that you have a place in the sport and you can be an Olympic champion,” Daley said.

Over the past year, the elite diver has launched a campaign – “It’s Illegal to Be Me” – to defend the rights of gay people. His idea focused on countries that had anti-LGBTQ laws.

“I thought these countries should not have the privilege of hosting major international sports competitions,” he said. However, when he spoke to athletes from anti-LGBTQ countries, he found they feared being seen as the problem.

“With the Commonwealth, the reason these laws exist is because of the colonial era laws, so for a white Brit to come and say you can’t have the Commonwealth Games is another form of oppression,” admitted Daley.

He changed his position; instead of saying they can’t hold the event, he suggested they include the values ​​of the organization by allowing a pro-LGBTQ opening ceremony and pride flags throughout. event.

Daley was able to use his platform at the British Commonwealth Games in 2022. He was recognized as an elite athlete who was outspoken about nations with homo-negative and anti-LGBTQ laws. As millions watched the opening ceremony, he carried the Queen’s baton and behind him were six gay activists and athletes carrying pride flags.

“It was an incredibly powerful and visible promotion of who we are,” he said. “It was evident upon seeing this pride flag, which we probably take for granted most days, that it is a beacon of hope, safety, security and protection.”

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