Athlete Says Stereotypes About Men In His Sport Slowed His Coming Out

3-time Olympic gymnastics medalist Danell Leyva (photo via Instagram)

Gymnast Danell Leyva, who represented Team USA at two Olympic Games, came out to his 52,000+ followers on Twitter earlier this month on National Coming Out Day.

“For a long time I’ve known that I wasn’t straight,” began the 28-year-old Cuban-American. “But because of certain very personal reasons, I always rejected that side of me.”

Leyva added, “Earlier this year I finally understood that I’m bi/pan (still trying to figure that one out) but I also realized that, as of now at least, I’m not attracted to cis men.”

Speaking to Olympic Channel, Leyva shared that stereotypes about men in his sport, plus his own determination to not give homophobes “the satisfaction of being right,” slowed his coming out process in some respects.

“[The stereotypes were] such a big factor in it, just not giving those people the satisfaction of being right because it doesn’t come from a good place,” said Leyva. “It wasn’t somebody that was trying to help us understand [our sexuality]. It was just somebody pointing at us and that doesn’t feel good.”

The Olympic champion also noted that, as he was growing up, he would “always somewhat reject” his sexuality. “And especially coming from Hispanic family, it’s very much rejected,” he added.

Danell Leyva at the 2016 Olympics in Rio (screen capture via Olympic Channel)

Leyva says he had been thinking about coming out for a while and almost shared the news this past June during Pride Month. But with Black Lives Matter protests happening across the nation in the aftermath of George Floyd’s homicide, he reconsidered.

“I was like, ‘No, I’m not really that important,’” said Leyva. “And so I decided to just kind of forget about it, and I did forget about it.”

Until, that is, until this year’s National Coming Out Day and those five empowering tweets.

Since sharing his authentic self with the world, Leyva says the response he’s received has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive.

Among the many who have sent messages of support were fellow Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, and out figure skater Adam Rippon.

 

 

Also comforting to the 2011 World parallel bars champion were messages giving him space to not worry about this label or that label.

“In the post, I said that I’m still trying to figure out between whether I’m a bi or pan. It was nice to have people be like, ‘You don’t have to label it. You don’t have to just be ‘a thing’. It’s an ever-changing fluid thing, so you don’t have to worry about that,’” explained the world-class athlete. “That was nice because that was certainly reassuring.”

“You know, it’s such a non-issue,” he continued. “It literally means nothing that if you’re just like, ‘Oh, you’re left handed? That’s cool. Oh, you’re bi? That’s cool.’ Like, it’s really nothing.”

“Everybody’s different, you know?” said Leyva before adding, “And at the same time, we’re not.”

Leyva hopes that his coming out might offer some inspiration to those considering coming out themselves. “If I get help one person be brave enough to live in their truth, then I feel like that that was the entire point of that post.”

 

 

(source: Olympic Channel)

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