Robert Páez has come out.
In a moving letter published to OutSports, the Olympic diver discussed the "difficult road" he traveled as a closeted person in Venezuela.
Páez, 23, participated in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics in the three-meter springboard competition. An athlete from age 7, he said he "knew from a very young age that I was different."
He kept this difference a secret — but he also knew it was harmful: "It was up to me whether I lived in happiness, or sank and lived in a lie that never would be."
"I believe that I was born gay," Páez wrote. "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."
Happily, despite his fears, Páez's mother, father, sister, and three brothers "opened up their arms and their hearts to me" after he came out to them.
By telling his story, Páez hopes to fight stigma, and encourage others to live their truth.
"I hope to help make homosexuality as common of a word as heterosexuality," he wrote. "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," he concluded. "Life is too beautiful to be hidden in a closet."
Read the full letter at OutSports.