On Tom Daley, Bisexuality and Gay Stereotypes

Just a few quick words on British diver and Olympic bronze medalist Tom Daley. Last December he revealed in a YouTube video that he was dating a man, and by doing it in such a seemingly casual way he joined the ranks of, among others, hip hop artist Frank Ocean and actor Jim Parsons. At the time I wrote of how happy I was for him and how his openness could make the coming out process easier for other athletes.

Although much of the media reporting on Daley’s video message at the time said he had come out as gay, it would be probably be more accurate to say that, if anything, he’d indicated that he was bisexual. However, it now seems that he recently told E! Online that he considers himself a gay man. It changes absolutely nothing about what I said about his announcement at the time, and it takes nothing away from the bravery he showed. Lots of people are bisexual, and others call themselves bisexual before deciding that their orientation is better described by the word “gay” or something else. Yes, Tom Daley said in his video that he “still fancied girls”, but his most recent comments doesn’t mean that couldn’t have been true at the time, or that he was something “lying” or “in denial”. While I’m glad that Tom is comfortable enough with himself to talk about how his relationship has changed how he sees himself, the most important point might be one that Daley himself has stressed previously; that labels shouldn’t really matter.

It is well-known that the gay community has had some problems with incorporating the experiences of bisexuals into the story of the movement, and it is disheartening that bisexuality is still looked down upon or in some respects not even recognized as a distinct sexual orientation. But one other interesting aspect of the evolving story of Tom Daley’s coming out was how parts of the media greeted the news that he was dating Dustin Lance Black. I’m not trying to weave a broader trend from the web of tackiness that is the UK tabloids, but the Sun‘s front page a couple of days after Daley’s coming out announcement trafficked in a very specific type of gay stereotyping: “Tom’s love is an Oscar-winning activist… and 20 years older”

The sensationalist exclamation point was the only thing missing, really. There wasn’t so much subtext as just plain text. It’s mostly all there in that telling ellipsis. Poor Tom, a mere 19, must have been seduced by the Hollywood dazzle and power of a man – gasp! – 20 years his senior. The Sun skilfully, if shamefully, dog-whistled about the gay adult who feed on vulnerable younger men, while covering its tracks by simply being true to the genre tropes of British tabloid journalism. And apropos of Dustin Lance Black, the tastelessness of The Sun reminded me of a story about him, Gus van Sant and Taylor Lautner from a few years back. The three of them were having dinner together, and for some reason GQ, profiling Lautner, decided to ask him if the two older men had made a pass at him. This could of course be just a joke question asked by a writer who had a bad day on the job, but the way I (and Dustin Lance Black) read it,  here was that murky stereotype of the predatory gay at play again.

No  matter what your sexual orientation is, you shouldn’t have to endure the thinly-veiled homophobia and just plain ignorance that still permeates much of public discourse. The Sun and others should be called out on it, so that Tom Daley is able to focus on his diving career, as he has said he wants to.

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Thomas Hitzlsperger, Robbie Rogers and the Plight of the ‘First Gay Footballer’

Retired German footballer Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay in early January, and thus added yet another eloquent voice to the continued debate about the dearth of openly gay players in professional team sports. He cited the examples of trailblazers like John Amaechi, Gareth Thomas and Tom Daley as inspiring him to make his secret known, but at the same time, he said, the very fact that these people had to take on such responsibility as representatives of gays in sports was frustrating to him Continue reading

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The 2014 Oscars Post

BEST PICTURE

12 Years a Slave (Dir: Steve McQueen)

American Hustle (Directed by: David O. Russell)

Captain Phillips  (Dir: Paul Greengrass)

Gravity (Dir: Alfonso Cuaron)

Her (Dir: Spike Jonze)

Nebraska (Dir: Alexander Payne)

Philomena (Dir: Stephen Frears)

The Wolf of Wall Street (Dir: Martin Scorsese) Continue reading

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Give The Voices Some Love

The announcement of this year’s Academy Awards nomination saw the return of an old(-ish) staple in the awards season debate. The “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” category honored Julia Roberts (August: Osage County), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave), June Squibb (Nebraska), Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine), but not Scarlett Johansson’s much-lauded performance in Her. I haven’t seen the film yet and so can’t comment on the wisdom of that decision, but it does highlights a recurring challenge for the acting categories: How to account for the particular piece of acting that constitutes a vocal or motion-captured performance? Continue reading

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My Favorite Movies of 2013: “It’s called obsession/can you handle it?”

I’m a little late with my best-of-the-year list this year, but a more relevant question is whether there even is such a thing as being late on this score. Looking back on my best-of-the-decade list, which I published at the tale end of 2009, I am struck by how different it would have looked, had I known – or seen – then what I have now. When compiling lists that are supposed to have a sheen of authority to them, time is not your enemy, it’s your friend. Continue reading

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The Year in Film Criticism

Taking stock of the year in film criticism has to begin with honoring the memory of two of the greats of the profession. I wrote extensively about him when he passed away in April, but is worth reminding people of the monumental legacy of Roger Ebert. A beloved TV personality and film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, his reach and influence extended all the way to Norway, where his reputation alone inspired people like my pre-teen self to thinking more, and more critically, about movies. Late in the year, the American critical community saw the passing of an even more senior figure, Stanley Kaufmann of the left-leaning ideas magazine The New Republic. Kaufmann wrote thoughtful and probing essays on movies beyond the multiplex until the end. With the deaths of Kaufmann, Ebert and Andrew Sarris in just the last two years, an era in American film criticism is drawing to an evitable but melancholic close. Continue reading

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Speaking for the Sport

When basketball player Jason Collins came out as gay this past May, I really thought this was going to be a game-changing year for queer athletes. My hope was strengthened when Robbie Rogers, who had quit soccer when he came out last year, resumed his career this summer. Both were welcomed with open arms, more or less. But then things went silent again, at least until Tom Daley’s video message to fans in early December. Jason Collins is still a free agent, and judging by the complete lack of out LGBT players, European professional soccer remains an exclusively straight business. Continue reading

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