Tom Daley praised for insightful documentary on Commonwealth homophobia

In the documentary by BBC One, Tom Daley embarks on a journey to speak with athletes in Commonwealth countries with anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.

A picture of Tom Daley and a progress Pride flag, after his new documentary is released.
Image: Via Twitter - @gdaduncan

BBC One’s new documentary Tom Daley: Illegal to be me is out and people are praising the diving champion for this insightful look into homophobia in the Commonwealth countries. In the documentary, he travels to different countries to talk to LGBTQ+ athletes impacted by homophobic legislation.

Tom Daley is certainly not new to using his platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. He has been doing it for years, a prime example of it being his winning speech when he earned his first Olympic Gold Medal, which he used to inspire and uplift the LGBTQ+ community.

Now in this new documentary titled Tom Daley: Illegal to be me, he travelled to some of the Commonwealth countries where homophobic laws are still in place, like Pakistan or Jamaica, to speak to queer athletes about the impact that such legislation has on their lives and careers. Currently, 35 out of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth have anti-LGBTQ+ laws and many are a legacy of the British colonial empire.

Daley embarks on his journey with a simple idea in mind: countries that have homophobic legislation should not be allowed to host the Commonwealth Games. However, after speaking to the athletes who live in those countries, he learns that they feel this choice would be exclusionary and one of them also suggests that queer athletes might take the blame for it.

The documentary also offers an insight into the 2022 opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, when Daley led a group of athletes waving Pride flags. The athletes he spoke with said seeing the rainbow flag flying at the games would make them feel safe and hopeful, so the diving champion made it happen.

Some people criticised the choice to use Tom Daley, a white British man with little knowledge of the topic, as the lead of such a documentary. However, many pointed out how the Olympic diver often addresses his privilege and acknowledges the influence that British colonialism had on the anti-LGBTQ+ laws in these countries.

One Twitter user praised the documentary saying: “I’m glad that this programme is touching on the fact that it was the UK that spread homophobia and homophobic laws across the Commonwealth in the first place. The British government should make a formal apology for that”.

“What makes Tom Daley stand out is that he understands how important it is as a gay guy in sport to use his platform to raise awareness of the plight queer people face,” wrote someone else “He doesn’t shy away from the tough questions or the bigot blowback.”

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