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Tom Daley explores the trials of being a gay dad in new memoir

In "Coming Up for Air," the British Olympic diver opens up about the biases he and his husband, Dustin Lance Black, face as gay parents.
Image: Tom Daley competes in the semi finals of the Men's 10m Platform diving during the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships on July 19, 2019 in Gwangju, South Korea.
Tom Daley competes in the semifinals of the men's 10m-platform diving at the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea. Ian MacNicol / Getty Images file

As one of the most high-profile Olympic divers and LGBTQ athletes in the world, Tom Daley is no stranger to the spotlight. But in his new memoir, “Coming Up for Air,” Daley reveals a new facet of his life being thrown under an unforgiving and sometimes bigoted microscope: fatherhood.

Daley says strangers often make him and his husband, Academy Award-winning American screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, feel like they are doing a “substandard job” as parents because they are gay.

Image: Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black at the Vanity Fair x Bloomberg climate change gala dinner in London on Dec. 11, 2018.
Tom Daley and Dustin Lance Black at the Vanity Fair x Bloomberg climate change gala dinner in London on Dec. 11, 2018.Jeff Spicer / Getty Images file

“As gay parents and gay dads, I sometimes feel like we are held to a higher level of judgment,” Daley, 27, writes. “When you are out in public, it feels like all eyes are on you to do the right thing or parent in the right way.” 

The Olympic gold medalist became a father when he and Black had their son, Robbie Ray, 3, in 2018. Daley writes that, although often innocently, strangers consistently offer him and Black “unwanted” help. In one instance, Daley reveals that a stranger offered to change Robbie's diapers.

“People see two dads and there is a feeling that we don’t know what we are doing or that it won’t come easily to us, in the way that it does to women,” he writes. “I guess it is well-meaning, but can be unwanted, nonetheless.”

In the book, released Thursday, Daley also touched on the “hurdles” he and Black, 47, had to overcome to gain legal guardianship of their biological son, after having him via surrogacy.

"Coming Up for Air," by Tom Daley.
"Coming Up for Air," by Tom Daley.HarperCollins Publishers

Under British law, surrogates and their spouses are considered the legal parents of surrogate-born children at birth, even if they are not biologically related. Surrogates are often implanted with an embryo of which they have no genetic relationship to, also known as gestational surrogacy. Legal parenthood can only be transferred by parental order or adoption after the child is born, a process Daley and Black had to endure.

“In the same month he said ‘Dada’ for the first time, we were called to court for a hearing to begin the process to legally become his parents,” Daley writes. “It made us feel uncomfortable and not ‘good enough’; like we were an anomaly that the system couldn’t deal with.”

Daley said the the process was “expensive and challenging,” prompting his husband to record a podcast, "Surrogacy: A Family Frontier," for BBC Radio Five Live in 2018. The limited series examined the personal, scientific, fiscal and legal tolls of surrogacy.

The memoir also takes readers through the events leading up to what Daley describes as "D-Day," the day he posted a coming out video to YouTube in 2013. Daley also touches on the role he has taken as an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community since coming out.

“It’s only by sharing stories that we can change hearts and minds and build bridges for people who are different,” he writes.

After winning his first Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games in June, Daley took to the podium and dedicated his win to LGBTQ youths, saying “you can achieve anything.”

Last week, while accepting the Sport Award at the 2021 Attitude Awards, Daley called for a ban on countries where homosexuality is punishable by death from competing in the Olympics.

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