Tom Daley says feeling ‘different’ over sexuality powered his success

tom daley

Olympic medalist Tom Daley has revealed his sexuality made him feel inferior and different from his peers growing up—but that ultimately provided the motivation that helped him succeed.

Daley, the 24-year-old British diver who has won two bronze Olympic medals, was a guest on the BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs programme on Sunday.

During the conversation with first-time host Lauren Laverne, Daley said he only realised in secondary school he was different from most of his peers.

The athlete, who grew up in Plymouth and was bullied at school after taking part in the 2008 Olympic Games, said that he felt “less than” everyone else because “it wasn’t socially acceptable to like boys and girls.”

“To this day, those feelings of feeling less than, and feeling different, have been the real things that have given me the power and strength to be able to succeed,” he said.

The diver, who said he’s queer rather than “100 percent straight” or “100 percent gay,” has often used his platform to advocate for LGBT+ rights.

The couple became fathers in June (Tom Daley/Instagram)

He called out anti-LGBT laws in the Commonwealth after winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April and wore a Pride badge on the podium when competing in Russia in May.

During the programme, Daley said he speaks up on LGBT+ issues to give others “hope.”

His first song choice was “Proud” by Heather Small, which he associated with his Olympic performance at the 2012 event in London.

In the programme, Daley also discussed how becoming a father has changed his perspective on his career—and his participation at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Daley and his husband Dustin Lance Black, a US filmmaker who won an Academy Award for the 2008 film Milkbecame fathers on June 27 when Robert Ray Black-Daley was born.

The diver has been outspoken on LGBT rights during recent competitions (tomdaley/instagram)


“If you had asked me last year, it was all about ‘I need to win a gold medal’,” Daley said.

“You know what, there are bigger things than Olympic gold medals. My Olympic gold medal is Robbie.”

The couple faced homophobia and criticism for choosing to have a baby via a surrogate rather than adopting a child. Daley expressed surprise and frustration at those remarks, noting that a heterosexual couple would not be criticised the same way.

In a previous interview, Daley discussed how fatherhood affected his advocacy for LGBT+ rights. “You want your child to grow up having an equal opportunity as everyone else that is born, whether they’re gay, straight, male, female, whatever religion you are, whatever ethnicity you are,” he said. “I think that everyone should have the equal opportunity to do the best you can.”