Tom Daley Protests Anti-LGBTQ+ Laws at Commonwealth Games
Author: Isabella A. Lieberman
Out U.K. Olympic diving champion Tom Daley wore rainbow colors to protest the anti-LGBTQ+ views and laws found in some throughout the British Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Birmingham on Thursday.
Daley, 28, entered the stadium with a group of LGBTQ+ rights activists from several Commonwealth countries carrying Pride flags.
Starting in 1930, the Commonwealth Games is a worldwide multi-sport competition with athletes that come from 56 countries that were primarily former British colonies. However, the games have been widely criticized for the criminalization of the LGBTQ+ community that occurs in 35 of the countries competing. Many of the laws targeting LGBTQ+ people can trace their histories to colonial rule.
“In over half of the Commonwealth countries, homosexuality is still a crime and in 3 of those countries the maximum penalty is the death sentence,” Daley wrote on Instagram. “These laws are a legacy of colonialism. This opening ceremony for us is about showing LGBTQ+ visibility to the billion people watching…”
“We have been working with Tom and we have been working with a wider group,” Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Katie Sadleir told the Associated Press. “You will see Pride flags [in Birmingham]. This is a city that absolutely embraces Pride and Pride messaging, and it’s definitely something that we’re working in close cooperation with Tom Daley on.”
Tom Daley experienced discrimination for his sexuality, firsthand, on his journey to becoming a two-year gold medal champion at the games, he told the BBC before the ceremony.
“I’ve experienced homophobia all my life, competing in countries where it’s illegal to be me and where I don’t feel safe to leave the venue I’m competing in,” he said. He announced last month that he will not be competing in this year’s games.
Daley highlights the challenges LGBTQ+ athletes face in his documentary with the BBC titled Tom Daley: Illegal to Be Me by traveling to Commonwealth countries with histories of poor LGBTQ+ rights records.
After hearing from athletes facing persecution, he told the BBC, “I learnt so many really harrowing stories – one of the big things that came of it was visibility and being seen and that is why something that is happening at the opening ceremony is going to be quite the historic moment.”
Daley discussed his plan during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony to march as the final baton bearer in the Queen’s Baton Relay alongside other LGBTQ+ athletes. The athletes will also wave the Pride flag on the podium, marking the first time the rainbow flag will be on display at the games.
Daley had the help of the Commonwealth Games Federation with his goal to promote equality in the games. “The CGF has been willing to talk and willing to hear what we have to say, and it’s good to see they’ve started taking a stance towards more inclusion. Along with incredible LGBT+ people around the Commonwealth, we will make a difference,” Daley said.
Sadleir told the AP that there were limitations about what the Commonwealth Games Foundation could do about the countries with anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
“We can’t go in to change the rules in countries, but what we can do is create opportunities for people to discuss issues in a safe environment,” she explained. “Whenever we’re given the opportunity to talk about our values, we do that.”
This week isn’t the first time the Olympic gold medalist has been vocal about LGBTQ+ rights. He told The Advocate earlier this year that he sees real progress achieved when sports figures use their visibility to advocate for the greater good, even if it means stepping outside the sports bubble to confront political and social issues of the day.
“I think it’s important that sports people use their platform to confront political things, because, at the end of the day, when you are successful in sport, you have a platform,” Daley said. “And you have a platform to share the voices of people that may not have [one].”
Tom Daley: Illegal to Be Me premieres Tuesday, August 9th.
Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Isabella A. Lieberman