Tom Daley’s YouTube channel has been an important presence in my life. Daley posted his coming out video around the same time as I was finally and belatedly coming to terms with my own sexuality. As I began coming out, his weekly vlogs were a source of comfort and inspiration.
At a time when my self-created identity was being upended, it was so helpful to see someone in the public eye living a better life after telling the world who he was. Witnessing Daley living openly and honestly while wholeheartedly enjoying himself was incredibly uplifting at a time I was trying to figure out how to do the same.
And also... well... how do I put this? I’m not made of stone.
Through Daley’s channel, I experienced firsthand the positive impact a prominent athlete can have on a community, even without overtly intending to do so. And now at a different point in his life, Daley’s channel is also serving as a force for good at a time when many LGBTQ couples in this country could really use one.
Ever since Daley and Dustin Lance Black had their son Robbie in 2018, fatherhood has come to play a significant role in the channel’s weekly videos. In those vlogs, Daley and Black come off as a normal couple going through the typical joys and tribulations of raising a child. It’s not earth-shattering but it’s still very watchable—and their experiences and emotions as fathers are quite relatable.
These vignettes of parenthood stand in stark contrast to a few ominous stories regarding the ability of LGBTQ couples to raise children bubbling underneath the news cycle. At this moment, certain malignant forces are doing everything they can to try to stamp out the plague of two soulmates raising a child in an environment of love.
Back in January, Republican Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill into Tennessee law enabling adoption agencies to refuse to place children with LGBTQ couples. A similar bill was filed shortly afterwards in Georgia. And just last week, The Supreme Court agreed to consider a case that could potentially allow such a practice to become the law of the land.
As with just about every modern attempt to take away LGBTQ rights, these bills and court cases are being argued under the guise of “religious liberty.”
The rights of LGBTQ couples to adopt children are being slowly chipped away. And our only hope to prevent these religious liberty laws from being adopted across the entire country lies in a conservative Supreme Court majority.
We all know love wins. But right now, love could really use an inspirational speech from Kurt Russell.
That’s a lot to go up against. So where does Tom Daley’s channel fit into it? Just like his coming out story was so helpful to me when I was going through my own struggles, Daley offers a consistent and uplifting vision of himself and Lance Black as parents when many more people need to see that.
Over the past year, Daley has released videos commemorating his son’s first Thanksgiving, touring his childhood home with Robbie, answering a “Papa and Daddy Q&A” with Black, and celebrating his first and second Christmas as a father. And even in the episodes focused on diving, Daley’s relationship with Robbie frequently becomes a big part of the vlog. His devotion as a father is undeniable.
What emerges from all of these videos is the simple humanity of two parents and a child. At a time when political and religious forces are conspiring to demonize LGBTQ couples who want to have children, each one of these videos pushes back by humanizing what it means to be a gay parent. As a gay couple raising a toddler, Tom Daley and Lance Black aren’t pawns to score political points. They’re real people — just like all LGBTQ couples looking to have kids of their own.
More to the point, it’s impossible to watch Daley talk about his son and ignore the overwhelming sense of fatherly love he exudes. When he has to leave Robbie and Lance for a training camp in Rio, the sense of sadness in his voice is palpable. And when he’s about to come home and see his son again, Tom Daley has a smile that should be the metric system’s official unit of measurement for electrical power.
All of these moments and emotions are relatable to any parent. And they serve as a prominent example that LGBTQ couples looking to adopt children have all the same feelings and concerns as any straight couple would.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Daley can just keep uploading parenting videos and make all of these anti-gay laws go away. But creating a resource to regularly display the sheer normalcy of a gay couple with a child puts a real face on the people these laws are targeting. Hopefully, that makes it more difficult to go after a vulnerable population.
Daley remains one of the top divers in the world. However, it’s clear that his biggest priority is being an even better father. At a time when opportunistic politicians are trying to take that right away, his channel provides ample weekly evidence that LGBTQ couples can be great parents.