After his relatively successful campaign in the 2012 Olympics (we won’t mention the nightmare in Rio this year, ahem…), Tom Daley posted a video online announcing that he was bi-sexual and that he currently had a male partner. For me, it was no big deal and was met with a shrug of acceptance and nothing more. The media, though, described his act as ‘brave’, and what followed was a news week where the main focus was on the truth that gay, lesbian and bi-sexual people existed, as if it was some sort of huge revelation. What bothered me more than the unsubtle reminders was the description of him being ‘brave’. In the 21st century, when acceptance should be at its highest, we still live in a world where a person coming out is seen as brave. Shouldn’t it just be accepted as a part of life instead?
Ellen Page, a brilliant little actress, when to an LGBT meeting in American, where she gave a speech and uncovered that she was a lesbian. Again, it didn’t particularly surprise me, nor did it warrant much more than an eyebrow raise. What followed was a round of applause and a viral campaign for the video. But why? Why is this still the case? Surely, in a world where acceptance should just be a part of life, somebody announcing their sexuality should be just greeted with a casual nod and a mutual agreement that we will all just get on with our lives as we see fit. Imagine if I went to the supermarket and bought a cabbage, and then came home, uploaded a video onto YouTube, and ‘admitted’ to the world that I had bought some cabbages. Nobody would care. I wouldn’t get any applause, or heartfelt messages- I’d be more likely to get abuse for posting a video that was a sheer waste of everybody’s time. Other than the abuse, this is the reaction I wish was the case when somebody- celebrity or other- announced that they were gay. Just a sort of acceptance. A realisation that sexuality is just part of everyday life. Part of the norm. Now, if Ellen Page had held a press conference to announce a new movie she was in, or that she was giving up acting to pursue a career in rhythmic gymnastics of urban music, that would be worthy of earning newspaper columns. Her sexuality to me has no bearing on what I think about her as a person and it certainly doesn’t damage her reputation as a decent young actress. I’d be much more interested in knowing what her career choices were than knowing who she is- or isn’t- attracted to. The reason acts like this are so publicised is that, sadly, we still live in a world where a lot of people feel that they can’t just disclose their sexuality, which I think is both depressing and indicative of modern day human nature.
None moreso is that true than in football. In 1998, footballer Justin Fashanu committed suicide after he was convicted of sexual assault on a 17 year old boy. As he was living in the USA at the time, he feared his sexuality wouldn’t allow him to get a fair trial, and so he ended his life, leaving his suicide note behind which clearly stated that he considered the sex to have been consensual. He was the first professional football player to come out as gay, which was news-worthy just for that fact alone, but his constant fear of judgement from family and team mates made his life difficult. Thomas Hitzlsperger, formerly of West Ham and Everton, announced his retirement and, shortly afterwards, also announced that he was a gay man. The fact that he decided to announced this after his retirement could be totally unimportant, however I feel that it may have been due to a fear that his playing career would be affected by his announcement. In Sweden, a footballer called Anton Hysen announced that he was gay, and shortly afterwards dropped from the First Division of Swedish football to the third. Again this could be coincidental, but it also point to the reality that within football- still very much considered a ‘working man’s sport’, there is still a fear of homophobia. After all, we already know that racism exists both between players and fans, so why shouldn’t homophobia also be rife? If I was a footballer who was homosexual I would feel very worried about revealing this to the public for fear of what extremist football fans would do to me. Some fans in Turkey will assault players simply for kicking a ball for the opposing team, so imagine what they could potentially do to a gay man, no matter what team he chooses to ply his trade for.
Basically, I guess what I’m saying is that a person’s sexuality should be about as relevant as what colour underwear they have on. If a friend of mine told me he or she was gay, I would shrug, nod, and then continue the conversation as if nothing had happened. I’m not trying to be rude to them- I’m just trying to make them understand that it matters not one jot to me about their sexuality. If they’re a good person, they’re good at what they do, and they are comfortable with their lifestyle, then let’s just treat their sexuality as the triviality it should be. It isn’t a big deal, so it shouldn’t be treated like it. By writing news story on it, the media are fuelling the fire- they are creating the idea that homosexuality is something outside of the norm. An oddity. A rarity that should be reported. It shouldn’t. It doesn’t matter. Get a grip, humanity.