Venezuelan diver Robert Páez, who competed in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, came out publicly as gay this week in an essay written for OutSports.
“I believe that I was born gay,” Páez, 23, writes. “As I got older I became more aware of it, and as I grew—like with so many others—it became my great dilemma. It was a source of worry that I was interested in things like dancing and fashion, things that in my culture were for women and gays. I shied away from doing many things. I was at times ashamed to go out into society, to face who I really was.”
Páez, who came to believe that he is gay “because God created me and he wanted it that way,” has learned to accept his sexuality with “pride and courage.”
“I understood that this was and would be my truth forever, and my own self-acceptance was only in my hands,” the athlete says. “Yet even as I found those answers, I worried about how my family would feel. What would my brothers say? How would my friends react? Or people out there watching me from the stands?”
Páez came out to his mother at 18, shortly after representing Venezuela at the 2012 Olympics in London. “She knew how to accept me as I was,” he recalls. “And although she cried, and it hurt a little bit, in the end she took it very well.” His siblings and father have also ultimately accepted him.
“Many times we as gay men, fearing who we really are, find a girlfriend to make our family believe that we are what they call a ’real man,'” Páez continues. “I wish I could show other gay men that we are not deceiving anyone, but we are cheating ourselves of being faithful to who we are as people.
“In sharing my story, I hope to help make homosexuality as common of a word as heterosexuality,” he concludes. “We have to read it, say it, and accept it with clarity and maturity. We have to understand that we are all equal.”
“Accepting ourselves and respecting ourselves are big first steps. Life is too beautiful to be hidden in a closet.”