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28-year-old two-time Olympic gymnast Danell Leyva celebrated National Coming Out Month by coming out of the closet himself; an admission, he says, was not easy to make.
“I always knew,” he admitted to Olympic Channel. “It was always just very rejected, internally rejected because of the way that we’re all raised. And especially coming from a Hispanic family, it’s very much rejected. As I was growing up, I would always somewhat reject it. But then, the more I accepted myself… I started realizing more and more things. I started realizing how normal it is.”
Leyva took to Twitter this month to make the announcement. Then he hit a snag: he didn’t know how to label himself.
“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,’” Leyva explained. “That was nice because that was certainly reassuring.”
“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,” he added.
A thread for #NationalComingOutDay
For a long time I’ve known that I wasn’t straight. But because of certain very personal reasons, I always rejected that side of me. Earlier this year I finally understood that I’m bi/pan (still trying to figure that one out) but…
— Danell Johan Leyva (@DanellJLeyva) October 11, 2020
Despite news headlines constantly dominated by the election and ongoing pandemic in the country, Leyva says he received an outpouring of support from his fans, and even a few of his fellow athletes. Fellow Olympians Aly Raisman, Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez all reached out to offer support. Leyva welcomed the comfort, as he also adds that he’d resisted coming out for years to avoid validating stereotypes.
“[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,” Leyva admitted. “It wasn’t somebody that was trying to help us understand [sexuality]. It was just somebody pointing at us and that doesn’t feel good.”
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Ultimately, Leyva feels vindicated by coming out, and hopes that one day, people won’t have to experience the kind of shame and indecision he faced in going public.
“I hope to one day live in a world where your sexuality is as irrelevant as whether or not you’re right or left-handed. You know, it’s such a non-issue. 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,” Leyva said. “The only way we can achieve that is by making it normal, by doing things like what I did by coming out publicly, by talking about it publicly, by just helping people understand.”
The Cuban-American Leyva grew up in Maimi before beginning his gymnastics career. He competed in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics for the Team USA, showing off his gifts on the horizontal and parallel bars. He picked up a bronze medal in 2012 as part of the Men’s Gymnastic Team’s overall win, and two silver medals in 2016, one for his showing on the horizontal bar, and one for his work on the parallel bars.
We’re happy he’s on our team too.