British Olympic champion Tom Daley has taken it upon himself to shed light on an issue he cares deeply about.
The four-time Olympic medalist and three-time world diving champion features in a recently released documentary where he visits some of the most homophobic nations in the Commonwealth.
“Did you know 35 of the 56 countries involved in the Commonwealth Games still criminalize same-sex relationships and seven have the death penalty?,” Daley reveals in the doc.
On Tuesday, BBC1 and iPlayer broadcasted the new feature, Tom Daley: Illegal to Be Me, at 9 p.m. to share Daley’s advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights with viewers around the world.
Daley made his first appearance at an international competition at just 12 years old. His elite diving career started at the 2007 Australian Youth Olympic Festival where he won silver with synchro-partner Callum Johnstone in the 10m synchronized diving final.
Since then, he has been in the limelight as a successful diver and television personality. Daley made his Olympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Games when he was 14. British media plastered his age all over headlines often mistakenly pronouncing him as Britain’s youngest-ever male Olympian (Daley was the next youngest male after 1960 Olympian Ken Lester). Immediately, Daley became Britain’s coveted young talent.
Daley has not missed an Olympic Games since Beijing, making him a 4-time Olympian. Throughout the years leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Games, Daley capitalized on his celebrity status and launched a documentary called Tom Daley Goes Global, in 2014 and a reality show called Splash!, which aired on ITV for one season. He was also featured on two television series Olympic Dreams and Olympic Breakfast.
While juggling his training and entertainment responsibilities, Daley was experiencing monumental changes in his life. In 2011, Daley was only 17 years old when he lost his father to cancer. Following his father’s death, Daley battled with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts as he felt intense pangs of homesickness and the crushing pressure of training and competing.
He began to find inner peace in 2013 when he came out in a YouTube video he posted. He shared: “In spring this year my life changed massively when I met someone, and they make me feel so happy, so safe, and everything just feels great. That someone is a guy.”
In the video, Daley referred to his then-boyfriend, American screenwriter and film producer Dustin Lance Black, whom he married in 2017. A year later, the married couple became parents via a surrogate who gave birth to now-four-year-old Robert Ray Black-Daley.
After finding peace in his personal life, Daley fully devoted himself to achieving his childhood Olympic dream at the Tokyo 2020 Games. With his synchro-partner Matty Lee, Daley finally won an Olympic gold medal in the 10-meter platform event.
The vacillating ups and downs in Daley’s life have led him to fight for a noble cause in the Commonwealth Games Federation. In his documentary Illegal to Be Me, Daley travels to Jamaica, Pakistan, Nigeria, Tonga, and Singapore to interview athletes and experience for himself the dangers of living in a country that punishes people who identify as LGBTQ+.
Yesterday on BBC Radio 4, Daley explained his campaign for LGBTQ+ rights in Commonwealth countries that are systematically homophobic and transphobic.
Four of the LGBTQ+ athletes featured in the documentary include Michael Gunning, the only openly gay Jamaican athlete, Dutee Chand, India’s first openly gay athlete, Theresa Goh, queer Paralympic swimmer from Singapore, and Amini Fonua, a Tongan swimmer who finally felt accepted during his collegiate career from 2008 to 2012 at Texas A&M. Fonua came out publicly in 2013 and has represented his country at the last three Olympic Games while fighting for gay equality in his home nation.
View this post on Instagram
To conclude the hour-long special, Daley presents a powerful speech detailing his LGBTQ+ manifesto. His original call to action demanded that countries with laws against homosexuality must be banned from hosting the Games. But, he has since modified his stance after realizing that such an action would be another form of oppression.
Instead, he asks sporting federations to draw up a set of values that will encourage countries to create a safe environment for LGBTQ+ athletes.
At the opening ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Daley and six other LGBTQ+ athletes and advocates carried Pride flags to make their identities visible to the world.
View this post on Instagram
Daley told BBC Sport: “In the UK, I think the Pride flag can be taken for granted. For lots of people around the Commonwealth, it’s a sign of safety and acceptance.”