Tom Daley travels to anti-gay countries in doco ‘Illegal To Be Me’

Promo photo for Tom Daley documentary Tom Daley Illegal To Be Me
Image: BBC

A powerful documentary from openly gay Olympic diver Tom Daley shining a light on homophobia across the Commonwealth, Tom Daley: Illegal to Be Me, is on Australian TV tonight.

At this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the 28-year-old Olympic gold medalist brought the Queen’s baton into the opening ceremony flanked by LGBTIQ+ activists waving the Progress Pride flag in a stand against homophobia.

That moment was the end of a journey for the athlete, who filmed a BBC documentary that took him to some of the “most homophobic” Commonwealth countries. It’s illegal to be gay in over half of the 56 member states of the Commonwealth. Punishments on the books in various countries include whipping, life imprisonment and even the death penalty.

For Illegal To Be Me, Tom Daley spoke to athletes in many countries facing persecution and advocates fighting for change.

While many couldn’t appear on camera for their own safety, Daley speaks to Michael Gunning (the only openly gay athlete on Jamaica’s team), Dutee Chand (India’s first openly gay athlete), and swimmers Theresa Goh (Singapore) and Amini Fonua (Tonga).

Tom Daley also spoke to LGBTIQ+ experts, including Bisi Alimi from Nigeria and Carla Moore from Jamaica. They explain the colonial legacy behind the criminalisation of homosexuality and attitudes towards queer people across the Commonwealth.

Speaking about the film, Daley said, “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.

“If I feel like that as a privileged man, I can’t imagine what day-to-day life is like for LGBT+ people around the Commonwealth.

“LGBT+ athletes must be safe and feel comfortable being their authentic selves without fear of persecution or death.”

Tom Daley wants anti-gay countries banned from hosting Games

Tom Daley reiterates in the film that he wants “the Commonwealth Games to say right now that any country that has anti-LGBT laws to not be able to host the Commonwealth Games.”

“I know that is a bold wish but it has to start somewhere to try and create some change,” he said.

Daley explained, “The Commonwealth Games Federation has been willing to talk and willing to hear what we have to say. 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.

“The Commonwealth Games Federation can be a shining example to other sporting organisations that sports really can be for everyone.

“With the pull power sports has, we can hopefully influence change to horrendous human rights laws that exist in so many countries around the world.”

Tom Daley: Illegal to Be Me is on Nine at 10:05pm tonight.

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

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