A Swiss pro volleyball player from Puerto Rico has come out as gay.
In an interview with Swiss website 24 Heures, 31-year-old Dennis Del Valle from San Juan, Peurto Rico shared this announcement. First, Del Valle talked about playing college volleyball with Penn State before moving to Switzerland to play professionally as a free agent. But why did he decide to recently come out? To show that gay athletes can make it to the upper levels of the sports world.
“Now is the time to speak,” Del Valle said, according to OutSports’ translation of the interview. “There must be lots of young athletes who live in secret, in Switzerland and elsewhere. On my level, I have had a successful career being gay. I hope they will say to themselves: ‘Why not me?’ Maybe I could change someone’s life. My speech could allow some to gain confidence, to feel safer, not to stop [playing a] sport for fear of rejection.”
“I especially didn’t want to break the chemistry of the team,” he added of his two-time Swiss champion team, which had its third consecutive title pursuit halted by the current pandemic. “That it could become weird in the locker room for some, that they imagine things, fixate on my homosexuality, no longer dare to go to shower in my presence, or whatever. When I get to the room, I’m there to work. It’s my priority. I’m not here to watch guys or flirt.”
Dennis Del Valle is now the first member of a major Swiss men’s team in any sport to come out as gay. Though, he’s not the first Swiss athlete to come out nor the first sports-related official to come out as gay. Back in March, Curdin Orlik became the first Swiss athlete to come out as gay. The 27-year-old champion in Swiss traditional wrestling also came out through an interview. The athlete noted that it was homophobia in the athletic world that kept him in the closet for so long.
“I heard things on the school building square [like] ‘you gay pig,’ ‘you f****t.’ Or in soccer, ‘such a gay pass!’ Even when swinging [wrestling],” he told a local magazine in an interview. “Sure, nobody really meant that, but if you’re like that yourself, you think, ‘Shit, that’s not a good thing.’ I thought: I don’t want to be gay. But it’s me. Now it’s out.”
But even before that, Swiss football referee Pascal Eirachner came out as gay back in 2017. He also came out through a newspaper interview. Thankfully, Eirachner, like the two men who followed after him, was met with support in the Swiss sports industry after coming out.
“They told me that I was the same Pascal for them,’ Erlachner explained to local Swiss newspaper Blick, “That they love me. And that they go through thick and thin with me. It was a very nice and very important moment. From there it went step by step upwards. Finally the truth was out. Finally, I was allowed to be what I am.”