Tom Daley praised for exposing how some countries treat gay people


(Picture: BBC/Zinc Television London Ltd/Luke Korzun Martin)

Olympian Tom Daley has been praised by viewers for his unflinching and ‘shocking’ look at how LGBTQ+ people are treated in certain countries in his documentary Tom Daley: Illegal To Be Me.

The 28-year-old retired diver spoke to athletes identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ about their experiences of persecution in their home countries ahead of the Commonwealth Games, where 35 of the 56 member states still outlaw homosexuality.

Travelling to places including Jamaica and Pakistan, as well as speaking with a Nigerian refugee, the programme did not shy away from revealing the full and traumatic extent of some of its participants’ experiences – one of whom was stabbed in the arm for being gay, and another of who’s friend was murdered.

As Tom himself said in reaction to that story: ‘Sad doesn’t even cover it, it’s like something out of a horror film.’

However, the documentary attracted plaudits online as Tom campaigned for the Pride flag to be included in the Games’ Opening Ceremony, as well as exploring the idea of banning anti-LGBT nations from hosting the event in future years.

‘Tom Daley is no longer just a sportsman, he’s an activist & a #LGBTQ community hero,’ tweeted one fan. ‘Using his diving platform to take a leap into uncomfortable truths about the commonwealth (a day after they ended!) with other leading activists is a bold move. Incredible.’

The former diver was horrified to hear one Nigerian athlete’s friend had been killed for being gay (Picture: BBC)
Tom successfully campaigned for the inclusion of the Pride flag and changed initiatives at the Commonwealth Games (Picture: Elsa/Getty Images)
He spoke to many Commonwealth sportsmen and women, several on the condition of anonymity (Picture: BBC)

‘Thank you for bringing attention to the blatant abuse of human rights and homophobia that gay people endure throughout the commonwealth,’ posted another, while one viewer described the documentary as ‘deeply moving and a huge eye opener as to the dangers our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters face every single day’.

Many viewers called the programme a ‘tough’ watch, while others were shocked to hear how many countries still had being gay as an illegal activity.

‘It’s mind blowing that over half the Commonwealth member states have anti-gay laws,’ shared one person.

Others were bowled over by those who spoke to Tom as well.

‘All these amazing people from nations where being gay is either illegal or totally socially unaccepted being willing to give their voices on tv – you are so strong and incredible role models. My utmost respect and solidarity goes to you and to @TomDaley1994,’ posted one fan.

Elsewhere in the hour-long investigation, knitting enthusiast Tom also shared his own difficulties with growing up gay, as he recalled ‘fighting’ his own sexuality and coming out to his paternal grandparents, who he initially felt thought he had ‘disappointed them to the highest extreme level that I could have’.

By the end of the film, a clip shows Tom running out to an audience of thousands at the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, joined by members of Commonwealth nations where homosexuality is criminalised, such as Pakistan and Jamaica, as they flew six Pride flags at the event in a first.

Tom Daley: Illegal To Be Me is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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