1. This powerful work has gone viral today.
2. It’s the creation of Conor Collins, a Manchester-based artist.
3. He tells BuzzFeed:
I have always hated bullies. I used to get in way too many arguments and fights in secondary school with people for picking on me, or others because I just loathed it. I used to hear people saying that bullying builds character. It doesn’t. It just forces someone to outwardly pretend to be someone they are not just to stop the bullying, and often even then it does not stop.
When I was young I was closeted about my homosexuality. Looking back now I hated that I felt I had to do that. In my school they were a couple of out gay boys – both now close friends of mine – who were bullied so heavily it still haunts them now and they often just flat out refused to go to school. I was terrified to be open and honest about who I was.
So the homophobic tweets sent to Tom Daley definitely hit a nerve for me. They weren’t directed to me, but in a way they might as well have been. If someone expresses hate for Tom Daley falling for someone of the same sex, then they do it for everyone who does that. Coming out can be an incredibly difficult time for someone in this or indeed most societies. So Tom taking charge and being open and honest about who he is was brave and I sincerely think it would have given hope to those wanting to do the same.
4. Self-taught Conor loosely based the picture on Andy Hooper’s photography. He says:
I really didn’t expect this piece to go so viral. I have produced a good few pieces, some political – I painted a portrait of Vladamir Putin composed using the names of LGBT people throughout history – and some more traditional and they have received a couple of retweets here and there, but nothing major.
However I am glad that this piece has raised awareness of bullying over the internet and homophobia within our society. For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people our society can feel very oppressive. Thankfully it’s improving and moving in a more positive direction, but still there are articles in British newspapers asking how a transgendered person can be allowed to teach children, there are news anchors discussing what rights I should and should not be allowed to have, and there are people who will laugh at me for acting ‘so gay’.
All I wanted to show was that there is a person involved. A real human being. All that abuse sent to Tom was being sent to a real human being with thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes and dreams. Often when something is said over the internet from someone perhaps hundreds of miles away it can feel as though it wont affect them. Speech may be free, but it can carry a heavy price.