In a column for Outsports, diver Robert Páez has come out as gay.

Robert Páez is a Venezuelan diver who has competed in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympic Games. In the column for Outsports, Páez admitted at times he felt “ashamed to go out into society” because of his sexuality.

He wrote: “Growing up in Venezuela, I knew from a very young age that I was different, despite not knowing what exactly that meant.

“It’s a difficult road, to know at a young age that we feel something that makes us believe we are not “right” in the eyes of society. Yet the truth is that if I was born that way, it was because God created me and he wanted it that way.

“When I finally came to believe that, that’s when I understood that I should accept with pride and courage what others called “mariconeria.”

Related: Pro wrestler Jake Atlas comes out as gay

“I understood that this was and would be my truth forever, and my own self-acceptance was only in my hands. It was up to me whether I lived in happiness, or sank and lived in a lie that never would be,” he wrote.

Writing about growing up gay, Páez said: “I believe 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.

“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 realized 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?”

Páez then wrote about coming out to his family. He said that when he told his mother that he was in love, she asked: “With a boy or a girl?” He said that although he knew it “hurt” her a little, she accepted him. He also said that his brothers and sister accepted him, with his sister joking “Let me know if you need high heels so you can borrow mine.”

© Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

Páez admitted that he was scared about coming out to his father “because he was a military man, and I thought he was going to reject me,” however he wrote that his father has known for a year now, and accepts it like the rest of his family.

Related: American racing legend Hurley Haywood comes out publicly as gay

Páez finished his column with an empowering message to the LGBTQ community. He wrote: “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.”

“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.

“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 a closet,” he finished.