At this very moment, I am sitting here watching your coverage of men’s diving. As a homosexual, I love men’s diving because (1) it features beautiful men in very revealing outfits; and (2) one of those beautiful men is Australia’s Matthew Mitcham.
As you are well aware, Matthew is an icon and a hero among gay men because he is an openly gay athlete, and as an openly gay athlete he won a gold medal four years ago in Beijing. Four years ago, you refused to acknowledge that Matthew was gay and bent over backwards to avoid mentioning anyone in his personal life beyond his (lovely, adorable, wonderful) mother. Primarily, the person you ignored was Matthew’s partner Lachland Fletcher. Mentioning Lachland was important, not just because he was Matthew’s partner, but because Matthew could not afford to bring Lachland to Beijing. Lachland was only able to attend because Matthew got a grant from Johnson & Johnson’s Athlete Family Support Program. (Given your propensity for triumph-over-struggle features about athletes, one would think this story would have been perfect for you.)
This enraged the LGBT community, and you could not understand why. This is why: Lachland is Matthew’s family. Therefore, when you deliberately ignored Matthew’s partner–something you would celebrate for any heterosexual athlete–because you didn’t want to interfere with Matthew privacy (yeah, right), you slapped every gay and lesbian person in the face. We exist, and we have families. Our spouses may be the same gender, but we are just as proud of them as our straight peers. Maybe your viewers in Branson, Missouri or wherever get squeamish about the same genitals thing, but that’s just tough for them. Welcome to the 21st century.
Therefore, I was very happy tonight to see one of your soft focus, sappy features on Matthew which explored in great detail his homosexuality, how he came to grips with it, and how the gay community has embraced him as a hero. And because you even showed Matthew embracing Lachland after he won the gold, so I was willing to let bygones be bygones. But then back in London, when showing Matthew’s next dive, your commentator mentioned Matthew’s embrace with “his friend.”
Friend? Are we back in the coded closet days of the 1950’s or the early days of AIDS in the 1980’s. Lachland is not Matthew’s friend. They are boyfriends, or partners, or whatever they call their relationship (Australia does not yet have marriage equality), but they are far more than friends.
I don’t believe that you or your commentators are homophobic, but the squeamishness about Matthew’s homosexuality and his boyfriend (of years) has to go. This is not just about Matthew and Lachland. It is about recognizing and affirming the LGBT population and our families and relationships. We matter. Our relationships matter. If you are going to pimp “The New Normal,” a show that has a gay relationship at the center, then please do us the decency to recognize us as equals.
I expect this to be fixed by Rio 2016.