English diver Tom Daley drew attention to the global criminalization of homosexuality after winning the synchronized 10-meter platform at the Commonwealth Games in Australia with partner Dan Goodfellow.
Seventy countries are participating in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and 53 of them are Commonwealth nations, almost all of which are linked to British colonialism. Homosexuality is still outlawed in the vast majority — 70 percent — of the Commonwealth nations.
“You want to feel comfortable in who you are when you are standing on that diving board, and for 37 Commonwealth countries that are here participating that is not the case,” Daley said.
He expanded his remarks when talking to BBC Breakfast.
"I feel extremely lucky to compete openly as who I am, not worry about ramifications. But for lots of people living in those countries it is not the case. We have to talk about these things and shine a light on them in order to get change. By Birmingham and the next Commonwealth Games [in 2022], I really hope we see a decrease in that number of countries that criminalize LGBT issues. I feel with the Commonwealth, we can really help push some of the other nations to relax their laws on anti-gay stuff."
To use the visibility of your gold medal to fight for the rights of other people in the #Commonwealth shows that @TomDaley1994 and @danngoodfellow have perfectly understood the impact they can have on other people's lives #inclusivesport #LGBTI ?????? https://t.co/ppKD0kZcyB— Straffe Ketten RFC (@StraffeKetten) April 13, 2018
Commonwealth Games Chief Executive David Grevemberg said in reply, “We hope that the Commonwealth Sports movement is playing a meaningful role in the wider global conversation around tolerance, empowerment, and legal recognition for all.”
Grevemberg also noted that the number of Commonwealth countries in which homosexuality is illegal has declined since the last Commonwealth competition.
Daley will be competing next month in the World Diving Series in Russia, where homosexuality is not illegal, but openly gay individuals are attacked and anti-LGBT hate crimes have increased in recent years.
First, CONGRATULATIONS!!! Second, what an amazing, strong, powerful statement to make at a time when you could merely celebrate yourself and Dan's win. You're a big damn hero to so many, Tom! ??????— Erin Allen (@erinallen_art) April 13, 2018
“Going to Russia can be scary because you’ve got to compete in front of lots of people and lots of people know that I’ve got a husband. I think you’ve got to face those things and try and make change,” he said.
Many social media users supported Daley’s continued use of his platform to advocate for LGBTQ rights. The Olympic diver has openly discussed his sexuality in the past and pushed for more global tolerance and respect on a range of sexual and gender issues. While many athletes steer clear of controversial political discussions, athletes like Daley are helping normalize the idea that competitors do not need to be confined to their professional roles.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: REUTERS/Damir Sagolj/Files