Tom Daley praised for confronting Commonwealth homophobia in ‘important’ documentary

Tom Daley carries the Queen’s Baton during the Opening Ceremony of Commonwealth Games.

Tom Daley took him campaign against homophobia around the Commonwealth in an “important” BBC documentary.

The diving champion has been vocal about his dismay that 35 out of the 54 Commonwealth countries still have anti-LGBTQ+ legislation on the books – mostly hangovers from British colonial rule.

He tackled the subject in a BBC One documentary, Tom Daley: Illegal to Be Me, travelling to countries such as Pakistan and Jamaica to speak with LGBTQ+ athletes impacted by such laws.

For many the documentary was an eye-opener, filled with moving interviews, personal anecdotes and urgent calls to make a difference. 

“So much respect for Tom Daley (as always) for showing so explicitly the realities of queer people across the Commonwealth and not just accepting rainbow washing and box ticking as a so called solution,” one viewer tweeted. 

Another said: “Wow, that was a tough watch, but an incredibly brave, powerful and emotional documentary. So many stories that break my heart.”

Some questioned why Tom Daley was chosen to front the film, as a white British man with “sparse” knowledge of the subject matter.

Others countered that Daley addressed his privilege regularly in the documentary, acknowledging the influence of British colonialism on anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

“I’m glad that this programme is touching on the fact that it was the UK that spread homophobia and homophobic laws across the Commonwealth in the first place. The British government should make a formal apology for that,” one viewer tweeted.

Another added: “Using his platform to shine a light on the homophobic attitudes across the Commonwealth. The British exported this hate however such abhorrent views remain rife in the UK. Seeing the Pride flag at the Opening Ceremony is a step forward.”

Broadcast a day after the end of the Commonwealth Games, the documentary also gave a poignant insight to the moment Tom Daley led athletes in waving the Pride flag at the games’ opening ceremony.

At the beginning of the film, Daley was of the opinion that anti-LGBTQ+ countries should be banned from hosting the games, but after speaking with athletes from such nations, came to understand that punitive measures would likely not change things.

One athlete from a persecuted country suggested waving Pride flags at the ceremony would be a symbol of safety and hope.

One viewer wrote: “OMG watching the opening ceremony was huge, but now watching #IllegalToBeMe and seeing behind the scenes of how important that was really does bring it home.”

Another viewer, who had attended the opening ceremony, wrote: “To be stood on the balcony watching brave @TomDaley1994 & ambassadors get ready to make the bold and important statement across the commonwealth is a highlight of my life.”

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