Tom Daley: Anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth are ‘legacy of colonialism’

·2-min read
British olympic athlete and gold medallist Tom Daley poses at the Team GB Ball 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)
British olympic athlete and gold medallist Tom Daley poses at the Team GB Ball 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

Tom Daley has said the legacy of colonialism is a reason that homophobic laws exist in many Commonwealth countries.

It is illegal to be gay in more than half of the 54 countries that competed at the Commonwealth Games, which ended Monday.

Some of these countries first formally criminalised same-sex relations under laws introduced during colonial rule.

In a new BBC documentary, the diving champion visits countries within the Commonwealth to explore the legacy and origins of anti-gay laws.

The 28-year-old said that one interview in the documentary, which aired on Tuesday night, opened his eyes to “where that homophobia stemmed from in the first place, and it is a legacy of colonialism”.

The documentary, Tom Daley: Illegal To Be Me, explores how the Olympian “discovers the colonial legacy that first criminalised homosexuality and the toxic influence of slavery on attitudes towards LGBT+ people”.

He told BBC Radio 4: “It opened my eyes to so many different things, where the laws came from, where that homophobia stemmed from in the first place and it is a legacy of colonialism and speaking to him, in particular, was very eye-opening.”

The documentary begins with Daley discussing the medals that he has won at various events.

“I start to question, should I feel a bit [weird] about these medals? Or should I be proud of them?” he said.

“I would be illegal in 35 of the 56 sovereign states of the Commonwealth. It’s just outrageous.”

The film sees him visit various countries to explore their lack of LGBT rights, including Pakistan and Jamaica.

He had previously called for countries with poor LGBT records to be barred from hosting major competitions, but has since pushed for a charter where countries would be required to respect LGBT values at games.

The star led activists in flying the Pride flag at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, in support of those living in countries that continue to criminalise LGBT people.