In a Windsor Castle ceremony on July 13, Tom Daley received his Order of the British Empire from Prince Charles.
Since then, he has dedicated himself to demonstrating exactly why he received the honor in the first place.
Although Daley is not participating in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, he still found a way to make an important impact on the event. As part of the Opening Ceremony, Daley carried the Queen’s baton into Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium.
And in an effort to uplift other LGBTQ athletes and activists—some from countries where homosexuality is outlawed—Daley brought along six other out competitors and public figures from the Commonwealth.
Joining Daley were Nigerian activist Bisi Alimi, Indian runner Dutee Chand, Jamaican activist Glenroy Murray, Ugandan human rights defender Prossy Kakooza, Trinidad and Tobagoan advocate Jason Jones, and Zimbawean activist Moud Goba.
It’s one thing for one of the most famous gay athletes in the world to use his platform to advocate for our community on the world stage. But during the Opening Ceremony, Daley also chose to use his time in the spotlight to help marginalized LGBTQ figures tell their stories.
Alimi, for instance, is the first gay man to come out publicly on Nigerian television. And Chand has broken barriers as the Indian national team’s first openly gay athlete.
Surrounding his appearance at the Games, Daley is also hosting a new BBC documentary where he visited several of the above-mentioned countries in order to raise awareness of the conditions many LGBTQ people live under in the Commonwealth.
He explained to the media: “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.”
All told, these Commonwealth Games have at least 40 out LGBTQ athletes competing. One of them — swimmer Dan Jervis — came out publicly a month ago so he would be out during these Games.
As a gay athlete who has won multiple FINA World Series medals in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Daley’s life experiences have helped him empathize with out competitors like Chand and Jamaican swimmer Michael Gunning. His documentary is an attempt to elevate their stories. It is scheduled to premiere in September.
When Daley was named an OBE in January, he vowed to use his honored status “to help create change” and “to make the whole Commonwealth a better place for LGBT people.” His actions during the Ceremony indicated that he intends to fulfill those promises.
“LGBT+ athletes must be safe and feel comfortable being their authentic selves without fear of persecution or death,” Daley asserted.
Coming from him, that’s not just a platitude. It’s a mission statement.