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Tom Daley named a ‘national treasure’ after ‘incredibly powerful documentary’

Illegal to Be Me has been met with wide-spread praise.

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: BBC

If a gold Olympic medal and an OBE haven’t sealed the deal, fans of the sportsman are declaring Tom Daley a national treasure after the premiere of his LGBTQ+ documentary Illegal to Be Me.

The 28-year-old Olympian has been an outspoken LGBTQ+ activist in recent years, including publicly condemning FINA’s decision to restrict transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions.

Daley also carried the baton into the opening of the 2022 Commonwealth Games with Progress Pride flags in an act of LGBTQ+ solidarity, surrounded by activists from some of the 35 Commonwealth countries where homosexuality is punished, a topic Daley approaches in his BBC documentary.

In Illegal to Be Me, broadcast on BBC One on Tuesday 9 August Daley, spotlights LGBTQ+ rights across the Commonwealth and visits countries in which homosexuality is illegal to speak to the top sportspeople facing persecution and activists about the work that needs to be done.

Ahead of the documentary’s premiere, Daley posted a series of photos from his trip around the Commonwealth to Instagram, writing: “This year I have been travelling around the commonwealth, visiting countries where same sex relationships are a crime.” 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Tom Daley (@tomdaley)

“The people in the documentary… highlight the importance of visibility for queer people and it taught me an incredible amount about how we can continue the fight for equality,” Daley adds. 

In a previous statement about the film Daley mentioned that he was working on a campaign that ensures the work being highlighted in the documentary is continued, Daley echoes this in his post: “Thank you to everyone who tunes in, this doesn’t stop here. This is the beginning of something much bigger.”

Illegal to Be Me has been well received by critics and fans alike, many praising Daley for using his platform to address topics like British colonialism and under-supported queer communities.

“Just putting it out there now before the hate starts. Hands off Tom Daley #nationaltreasure” wrote one viewer. 

“What makes Tom Daley stand out is that he understands how important it is as a gay guy in sport to use his platform to raise awareness of the plight queer people face,” wrote another. “He doesn’t shy away from the tough questions or the bigot blowback. [Tom Daley], you’re a legend.”

Another shared: “Utmost respect for Tom Daley using his position to push for change and respect for LGBT rights.”

Many were also impressed by the scale of the film that highlights the continued efforts that need to be made for LGBTQ+ folks: “An incredibly powerful documentary by [Tom Daley] on [BBC One] tonight, showcasing that there is still a great deal of work to do to ensure #LGBTQ inclusion around the world. Thank you Tom. Take a watch if you can.”

“Some Ugandans are gay, get over it!! We ready to watch! Here if you have any questions, let’s watch together,” another tweet reads.

Illegal to Be Me is now available to stream on BBC iPlayer. 

The Attitude September/October issue is out now