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Venezuelan Olympic diver Robert Páez comes out as gay in emotional essay

"Life is too beautiful to be hidden in the closet."

By Fabio Crispim

Venezuelan Olympic diver Robert Páez has come out as gay. 

The swimmer, who previously competed in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, opened up about his sexuality in an essay for Outsports magazine. 

In the post, Páez revealed that he had struggled with his sexuality due to his upbringing in the country but had always known he was “different”.

He wrote: “I’ve been in sports since I was 7-years-old. Growing up in Venezuela, I knew from a very young age that I was different, despite not knowing what exactly that meant. 

“I understood that I was born gay. 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.”

He added: “I shied away from doing many things. I was at times ashamed to go out into society, to face who I really was.” 

“At age 15, while other kids were playing soccer and eating ice cream with girls, my mind was struggling with endless thoughts and questions. Little by little I realised that only I had my answers. 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?” 

It wasn’t until the age of 18 that Páez finally opened up to his mother: “One day, after having competed for Venezuela in my first Olympics, I told her that I was in love. ‘With a boy or a girl?’ She asked. Mothers know. My mum knew. She knew how to accept me as I was. And although she cried, and it hurt a little bit, in the end she took it well.”

Páez then explained how he hopes to inspire more men to come out: “In sharing my story, I hope to help make homosexuality as common of a word as heterosexuality.

“We have to read it, say it, and accept it with clarity and maturity. We have to understand that we are all equal. Being gay does not make us less as a man, or girls less as a woman.

“Being gay is not a disease. Accepting ourselves and respecting ourselves are big first steps. Life is too beautiful to be hidden in the closet. I always say to myself before I fall into a pool of water waiting meters below me, if something goes wrong I’ll get back on the diving board and try it again.”

He added: “But I’ll never surrender.”