By Austin Olivares
Coming out was one of the greatest things that I have ever done and I have absolutely no regrets in doing so.
I am a sophomore swimmer for Florida Atlantic University and being an openly gay athlete changed some things for me. Before I came out, I felt that I needed to be careful in the locker room and that I had to watch what I said around my teammates. However, this turned out not to be the case.
My coming out was rather uneventful. I told my team captains on the guys' and girls' side that I didn’t want there to be any rumors or for anything to be misunderstood. I am gay, I told them. I asked that they tell everyone on the team because I did not want to make a big deal out of it. I came to the team to swim and that was that. It didn’t even seem like I came out to them as we were joking about the same things we always joked about and they weren’t uncomfortable in the locker room when I was there. A weight has been lifted off of my shoulders and I feel much happier and relaxed knowing that everyone accepts me for who I am. I am so blessed for coming out and I am just as blessed with how I was received by my friends, family, and teammates!
Austin Olivares, front, with his Florida Atlantic teammates.
High school in Orlando was a very interesting time for me. I started swimming as a freshman and was excited to compete for our school. Aside from that I was looking forward to many things such as learning to drive, making friends, graduating and training to break records. However, something was always at the back of my mind and I was so scared of it -- my sexuality. In high school I struggled with coming to terms with the idea that I was gay. What would people think of me? I’m a record-breaking athlete, but I thought people would look at me differently if I came out.
I fought it long and hard until I couldn't take it any more in my junior year. I came out to my mom one night and she was extremely comforting about it. She loved me regardless and nothing had changed. My father would soon come to say the same thing when I told him about it two months later. This was the beginning of my coming out experience and I couldn’t feel more fortunate with how they reacted.
Coming out to my peers in high school was a much scarier thing to do. Once everyone knew, I would completely vulnerable and exposed to all of the fears that I had about, but I felt that I needed to do this. I told my three best friends and they were extremely supportive and happy for me. It was the same with everyone who found out . They all saw me and respected me the same, if not more. They told me that my character and my accomplishments spoke louder than something as simple as sexual orientation and that made me happy. I will not be defined solely on sexual orientation.
Being an openly gay athlete has taught me a lot about myself. It’s made me very comfortable with myself and I’ve been very patient and accepting towards the people around me.
My swimming has also improved because I can just focus on the work that I need to put into the pool, as opposed to what people are going to think of me if they found out I was gay. Being an openly gay athlete, I feel that I can be an inspiration to many people who are still struggling to come or just struggling with the idea that they are gay. I know there may be some who doubt my ability to compete simply because I am gay but I’ll let my results do the talking. Coming out has made me happy with who I am, I can do anything a straight athlete can do, and I hope to inspire those who are still struggling with their sexuality.
Austin Olivares, 20, is a sophomore Multimedia Studies major at Florida Atlantic University and swims the freestyle and butterfly for the men’s swimming and diving team. He broke a school record as a freshman in college and in high school in Orlando broke five records his senior season. He hopes to make the Olympic swimming team for Puerto Rico in 2016. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, @austin_olivares on Twitter, or austin_olivares on Instagram.
Story editor: Jim Buzinski.