(EDGE) Venezuelan Olympic diver Robert Páez penned a moving essay for OutSports this week in which he came out publicly as gay.
"I believe that I was born gay," Páez, 23, 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," the athlete continued. "I was at times ashamed to go out into society, to face who I really was."
Páez, who competed in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, went on to say that hbe believes he's gay "because God created me and he wanted it that way."
"I understood that this was and would be my truth forever, and my own self-acceptance was only in my hands," he wrote in OutSports. "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 said he came out to his mother when he was 18 - not long after competing at the 2012 Olympics in London.
"She knew how to accept me as I was," he said. "And although she cried, and it hurt a little bit, in the end she took it very well."
The diver added the rest of his family, including his father and siblings, also accepted him for being gay.
"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 wrote. "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."
He concluded by saying he wants to share his story "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," he wrote for OutSports. "Accepting ourselves and respecting ourselves are big first steps. Life is too beautiful to be hidden in a closet."
Click here to read Páez's full essay in OutSports.