Sexuality is not black & white

JESS MCGUIRE
Last updated 09:40 04/12/2013
sexuality
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SHADES OF GREY: Tom Daley and Maria Bello haven't come out as 'gay', they've just said they're in love with someone of the same sex.

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OPINION: In the last couple of days, two fairly well known individuals have publicly revealed they are currently in a same-sex relationship - British Olympian Tom Daley, and Hollywood actress Maria Bello. 

In the case of Daley, the confession was made straight to his phone camera and uploaded to YouTube in a five and a half minute confession titled "Something I want to say..."  whereas Bello shared her news in the NY Times column "Modern Love". When one examines the public response to these revelations by performing a highly scientific litmus test known as "reading the comments",  it would appear that the majority of reactions have been positive.

Depending on your perspective, that is terrific news which shows just how far society has progressed when it comes to understanding and supporting relationship equality. However if you're a fundamentalist anything, perhaps it is proof positive that the relentless homosexual propaganda machine is winning the war against families through their pop cultural creations that have been specifically designed in bright pink laboratories to brainwash the masses into performing sexual acts that won't result in tiny crying miracles in approximately nine months time (see Ellen DeGeneres and one-fifth of every boy band since the beginning of time).

Anyway, along with the many supportive remarks from readers of news sites around the world, there has been other interesting kinds of feedback that are worth discussing.

The first is the fact that many publications - both mainstream media and LGBTQ-centric media - are choosing to run stories on the pair with headlines saying they have "come out as gay". Actually, no - neither Tom Daley or Maria Bello referred to themselves as gay. They announced they are currently in a same sex relationship and extremely happy in it, but they've never said they are exclusively attracted to persons of the same gender. On the contrary, Daley went out of his way to explain that he had dated girls in the past and "still fancied them" and Bello's romantic history, which she shared in her NY Times piece, shows she's been in heterosexual relationships too (and several of her exes were still close with her and her time with them is in no way retrospectively nullified now she's found love with a woman).

Some may suggest that taking writers to task over their use of the word 'gay'  in reports on Daley and Bello is merely quibbling over semantics, but the world of human sexuality is far from black and white and until we acknowledge and accept the variations of grey (apparently there are up to fifty shades of it!) then there are going to be a hell of a lot of queer people at home who find themselves falling for both men and women and feeling extremely confused and isolated because they struggle to find representations of themselves in the public sphere.

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Speaking of representation in the public sphere, that brings us to the second kind of feedback that warrants a little scrutiny - that from folk who felt obliged to pipe up with insightful contributions like this one left behind on an opinion piece published in The Telegraph:

"Before i am accused of homophobia let me just say that i couldnt care less what homosexuals do or who they form relationships with. I'm very happy for them and i would not seek to admonish or obstruct them. All I would ask is that they shut their collective mouths and keep it to themselves as I'm sure neither me nor anyone else wants to hear about it. Your not special ,you are no different to the rest of us..thats what you want isnt it? [sic]"

The "I don't care what queers do but why do they have to talk about it? Can't they keep it to themselves?" criticism has appeared quite a number of times online underneath stories about Daley and Bello sharing the news about their same sex relationships with the world. 

In Daley's situation in particular, it's completely understandable that he would want to speak up about this publicly and beat the tabloids to it - every individual has a right to tell their own story in their own words, and given the press attention he receives in the UK, what other choice did he have if he wants to live a normal life where he gets to walk down the street holding hands with his boyfriend? Why should he wait for the paparazzi to snap a photo of a moment of affection and sell it on to the Fleet Street rags who would no doubt knock out some barely literate pulp written in a way that makes something that is obviously so special to him seem like a shameful secret that had to be exposed for the good of the nation? 

It's also worth noting how many of the people commenting that Daley and Bello shouldn't need to parade their "lifestyle" in public because these things are no one's business appear to be straight men, apparently completely oblivious to the actuality that representations of their sexuality are EVERYWHERE. Films, television, movies, commercials - they are able to look around and see themselves portrayed in every part of popular culture, so much so that they are now don't even notice it - in their minds, everything is just how it has always been and always should be. So when something comes along that isn't personally relevant to them (for instance, gasp and horror, a young man cheerily announcing he's fallen in love with a dude), it is extremely jarring and they are the first to denounce it as unnecessary and irrelevant. 

Perhaps the coming out stories of Tom Daley and Maria Bello are irrelevant to the 100% bona fide heterosexuals out there, but to anyone looking on who finds that the labels "gay" and "straight" simply don't fit them ... well, hopefully these public conversations will lead to further acceptance and support from those who happen to wear labels well.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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