Bravo Tom Daley, but I’m afraid ‘coming out’ stories are here to stay

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There’s been a lovely response to the news that Tom Daley, the diver and Olympic medallist, is in a relationship with a man; an (almost) uniform outpouring of support and a general admiration for his bravery. Our own Graeme Archer has written a very touching piece on the subject, in which he talks about his own experiences and points out how important it is that successful, well-known people are open about this stuff, so that young people feel able to do the same. And over at the Indy Owen Jones talks about how far we’ve come as a society – 30 years ago two out of every three Britons thought homosexuality was immoral; now just one in five does.

I want, very gently, to disagree with one of Owen’s points, though. He thinks one day “coming out” won’t be news; celebrities won’t have to announce that they’re in a same-sex relationship, they’ll just say they’re in a relationship, and people won’t care if it’s with a guy or a girl. I think that’s pretty unlikely, for the following reasons.

LBGT people are always going to be in a minority. The moment in a young person’s life when they realise they’re not straight, and when they tell their family and begin a relationship, is always going to be a big one. And the public is always interested in people’s sex lives, hence the endless success of Mail Online stories about E-list celebrities having affairs.

So the combination of relative rarity, personal drama and celebrity sex is always going to make news. What will happen is more of what has already happened: the note of moralising will dissipate even further, and eventually we’ll get past this meta-stage we’re in now of saying “look no one minds if you’re gay now”. And eventually, celebrity-comes-out-as-LGBT stories will be presented with the exact same salaciousness, prurience and disregard for personal privacy as all the rest of the celebrity sex stories.

Which is progress, of a sort.

More on this story

Tom Daley’s coming out shouldn’t matter – but it does
Why was Tom Daley subjected to relentless bullying?
The world is turning nasty for gay people



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