Dear Tom

Dear Tom

Like so many people I saw your video yesterday. Within minutes of you posting it, it was appearing in my twitter stream along with loads of messages supporting you. Then you started to appear on the news and the radio and no doubt your picture will be in the press this morning on many a front page.

And all because you said you are in a relationship and had found happiness with another man.

My first response was to hope that you can carve out a bit of privacy to enjoy being with someone who makes you happy.

My second response was to think how lucky other young people are that people like you are around these days. I remember a time when no-one talked about these things at all. Even though sometimes it seems a bit over the top these days, and I bet you wish everyone would leave you alone to mind your own business at the moment, trust me, these are better times than when I was young. In those days no-one talked about these things in public. Or at least if they did say anything they didn’t say anthing terribly helpful or kind. To see so many lovely messages sent to you in the last day warms my heart no end and makes me realise that we’ve managed to build a better world. I know it must be intrustive – forgive me though whilst I appreciate this moment when a happy-looking young man’s relationship with another man is headline news for all the right reasons and not a bunch of nasty reasons. I never thought I would see such a day.

When I was your age there was something new to think about too – AIDS was hitting the public consciousness in a very new and very scary way when I was 19. I was just at college and hearing a pretty stark and shocking message – that loving someone might kill me. It was not a great time to be learning about life.

Sadly, it is the case that HIV is rising again amongst people of your age and the health campaigns are not terribly focused now.

What you’ve done in coming out about your relationship will be hugely significant for lots of people. Hopefully in being honest about who you are you will inspire others to do the same. Honesty is one of the keys to making the world a safer place.

There’s a load of nonsense being talked about labels today – people are saying you are gay because of your statement and others are arguing that you are bisexual and then bickering amongst themselves about what that means. Take no notice of any of it but take some time to work out what it means for you to be whole.

There are so few people in same-sex relationships in the sports world who find themselves able to be honest and that’s what makes your video so significant. It will inspire people. It will also sadly enrage a few people but thankfully far fewer than ever there were before. Any prejudice against you will be exposed for what it is and be widely condemned. You are helping to build a world where such actions become ever less acceptable – and thank you for joining in that struggle.

Even though you probably think that there’s no-one left in the world now who doesn’t know about what you’ve said, you’ll probably find that you end up remembering this moment throughout your life as it is repeated in smaller and less public ways. I came out very publicly (in the pulpit rather than on youtube!) and I know how often I still find myself coming out all over again, even to people who “know”. In some ways, it lasts a lifetime and I never understood that when I was first starting to talk about my own sexuality in public. Be strong and take each day as it comes. People are excited for you because they can see so many wonderful opportunities that could lie ahead for you and we’ve not had that many role models like you. But don’t get hung up on being a role model – just enjoy life, live well and work hard at your sport.

Stay safe and encourage others to be. Stay grounded too and find your own place in the world to stand. And enjoy this time. Enjoy being with someone who makes you happy. Heaven knows, you need someone who can support you in amongst all this hullabaloo.

You are loved by thousands. And you are also loved by one particular someone.

Good wishes to both of you amidst all the media circus.