Tom Daley on his LGBTQ+ awakening: ‘I had my head in my hands. I felt so dark about being British’

The Olympic diver has always been proud to represent his country. But making a documentary about gay rights in the Commonwealth led to a revelation

Tom Daley sounds as if he’s still in shock. Britain’s most celebrated diver recently returned from visiting various Commonwealth countries to investigate LGBTQ+ rights. Of course he knew there were issues; that in much of the Commonwealth homosexuality is still criminalised, thanks to the British empire exporting draconian homophobic laws to the colonies in the 19th century. But knowing something is different from meeting the people who live with those threats on a daily basis. It has changed so many of his views, he says – not least on what it means to be British.

It all started last October, when he said during a TV interview that he didn’t think countries with discriminatory LGBTQ+ laws should be allowed to host major international sporting events. He was then invited to deliver C4’s alternative Christmas message, by which time he had refined his position. “In 2022, the World Cup is being held in the second most dangerous country for queer people, Qatar. Why are we allowing places that aren’t safe for all fans and for all players to host our most prestigious sporting events? Hosting a World Cup is an honour. Why are we honouring them? Holding a Formula One grand prix is an honour. Why are we honouring Saudi Arabia?”

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