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Tom Daley: Jake Daniels coming out is 'powerful' and 'incredibly brave'

I am ready to be myself – Daniels

Olympic diving champion Tom Daley says Blackpool footballer Jake Daniels coming out as gay is “incredibly brave” and “powerful”.

Earlier this week, 17-year-old Daniels became the first professional in UK men’s football for more than 30 years to come out while still playing.

He said he was inspired by three-time Olympian Daley and Australian footballer Josh Cavallo.

“It’s just incredible,” Daley, 28, told American news website the Daily Beast.external-link

“I think about what it means for any queer young kids growing up thinking now, ‘Maybe I do now have a space in football. Maybe I will get in. Maybe I will be welcomed.’

“It’s not just that the queer community has been so celebratory of it, but the fact of seeing people like [England captain] Harry Kane speaking out about how amazing it is.

“Straight footballers at the top of the game are commending him, and I think for visibility in the sport it’s just incredible. Jake and Josh Cavallo are paving the way.

“The fact that Jake came out is a really powerful message to send. It’s so incredibly brave it might encourage people to be brave and more people to come out, able to be themselves.”

Daley, who came out as gay in 2013, said the culture among some football fans had to change so players like Daniels do not suffer homophobia.

“It takes a shift in culture from the top down, where the heads of organisations and governing bodies are creating that accepting and open culture, because if it doesn’t start there, it’s never going to change,” he said.

  • Daniels says coming out will allow him to be ‘free and confident’
  • Duke of Cambridge praises Daniels’ courage

‘Nobody should be discriminated against in sport’

As well as discussing Daniels coming out, Daley shared his views on transgender inclusion in sport.

The debate centres around the balance of inclusion, sporting fairness and safety in women’s sport – essentially, whether trans women can compete in female categories without their biological sex giving them an unfair advantage or presenting a threat of injury to other competitors.

Many argue transgender women should not compete in elite women’s sport because of any advantages they may retain. Others argue sport should be more inclusive.

“Sport should be the most inclusive place for all,” said Daley, 28.

“Nobody should be discriminated against in sport. Of course, there is a lot everybody needs to learn and understand the science. But at no point should trans people be banned or told they cannot do something they love to do.

“It’s amazing to win medals, but sport is about more than winning medals. It is about taking part in something you love alongside other people who feel the same. Let’s do it all together. I love sport, and I think everybody should have the opportunity to be involved in it.

“You’ve got states [in America] who won’t give young trans people gender-affirming care, and then you’ve got lawmakers and certain sports saying ‘You can’t play’ in this or that category. Trans people are being put in impossible situations. What happens if they can’t have gender-affirming care, and they can’t play sports?

“They’re constantly being pushed away and shut out. I feel extremely strongly people should be able to compete in the sports they love to do.”

Cyclist Emily Bridges and swimmer Lia Thomas have recently been at the centre of the discussions around transgender inclusion.

Bridges was due to compete in her first women’s race – against greats including Dame Laura Kenny – but the sport’s governing body blocked her from taking part.

Thomas, meanwhile, won the women’s 500-yard freestyle to become the first known transgender swimmer to win the highest US national college title.

  • Transgender women in sport – key questions answered
  • Sports Desk podcast – Transgender women in sport

Trans women have to adhere to a number of rules to compete in specific sports, including in many cases lowering their testosterone levels to a certain amount, for a set period of time, prior to competing.

There are concerns, however, that athletes retain a biological advantage from going through male puberty that is not addressed by lowering testosterone.

UK Sport chief executive Sally Munday said: “This is a complex topic and Emily has shown incredible courage. I have huge empathy for Emily, I have huge empathy for the women who she would have been potentially competing against.”

US swimmer Erica Sullivan, who competed against Thomas at the college event, said Thomas deserved “to be celebrated for her hard-won success”.

“Like anyone else in this sport, Lia has trained diligently to get to where she is and has followed all of the rules and guidelines put before her,” Sullivan wrote for Newsweek.external-link

Sullivan said she was “proud” to be one of more than 300 college, Team USA and Olympic swimmers who signed an open letter in support of Thomas and all transgender and non-binary swimmers.

United States footballer Megan Rapinoe, meanwhile, wrote in the Washington Postexternal-link that “all women must stand up and demand that exclusion is not done in our name”.

But other athletes and organisations have raised concerns about trans inclusion.

Two current elite female runners told BBC Sport earlier this month that transgender women should compete in an “open category” in order to “protect women’s sport”.

The British athletes, one of whom is an Olympian, believe athletes should only be allowed to compete in the category of their biological sex.

Former swimmer Sharron Davies has said “no rules can reverse the advantage of male puberty”.

More reading from BBC Sport on this issue

  • ‘Transgender inclusion, fairness and safety often cannot co-exist’ says major review (Sept 2021)
  • IOC releases new guidance on transgender inclusion (November 2021)
  • IOC transgender guidance criticised by medical experts (Jan 2022)
  • Thomas becomes first known transgender athlete to win NCAA swimming title (March 2022)
  • Lord Coe warns over ‘fragile’ women’s sport (March 2022)
  • Florida governor DeSantis refuses to recognise Thomas win (March 2022)
  • Transgender cyclist Bridges set to race in women’s National Omnium event (March 2022)
  • Bridges will not race in women’s National Omnium event (March 2022)
  • Bridges still seeks clarity on ‘alleged ineligibility’ (March 2022)
  • UCI can ban Bridges even if she meets eligibility criteria (March 2022)
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnson says transgender women should not compete in women’s sport (April 2022)
  • UK Sport chief has ‘huge empathy’ for transgender cyclist and her competitors (April 2022)

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