Tom Daley‘s announcement that he’s in a relationship with another man was greeted mostly with affirmations of support, but there were haters, of course. There was the usual round of homophobic tweets from people whose thought processes can be confined to 140 characters or less.
And the religious right had to live up to its reputation of parading its homophobia at any given opportunity. First and foremost, of course, is the Westboro Baptist Church. (Westboro says it’s going to picket Nelson Mandela’s funeral, so Daley is in impeccable company.) The Fred Phelps Family Tabernacle tweeted “Olympic diver Tom Daley announces he’s a fag (bi-pervert) u all lap it up in wake of #GlasgowHelicopter,” somehow linking Daley with the crash of a helicopter into a Scottish pub.
Westboro was not alone, of course. Antigay commentator Robert Oscar Lopez complained that Daley was being exploited by a sexually obsessed community led by, among others, Queerty.
Toying with a nineteen-year-old’s sexual identity, when the person is still at a tender age, still not secure enough in himself to piece together what homosexuality means, or even know why he’s embarking on such a risky erotic journey — that’s just wrong. And until I see gay writers in Queerty and Thinkprogress acknowledging that this is a problem with the gay male community, I can’t deny that I feel uncomfortable with this, almost at the same level as my friend. A community led by people like Dustin Lance Black, a community that thinks this is normal and acceptable, is simply not a community that is prepared to have custody over defenseless pubescent boys.
We’ll let Freud sort out all the language there.
What matters most is that the haters can’t compete with Daley in terms of impact. Westboro has fewer than 18,000 Twitter followers (many of them probably just to get a daily dose of nuttiness). Lopez has 423. Daley has 2,587,000.
Daley captures the spirit of his generation — accepting, intimate with social media, with a huge following that recognize him as a warm and genuine individual. How can the hectoring religious right ever compete with that? It can’t, of course. Daley’s openness is far stronger than the haters’ fulminations. It may not be obvious, but Tom Daley is another example that the religious right has lost its war. The landscape has changed so much that it can no longer recognize the battlefield.