Coming out was one of the ways I had to find freedom for myself. Otherwise, I would be trapped in other people’s reality. I learned that where you are comes from how you start.
Life as a figure skater has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life. However, the darkest days of my life came when I was hiding who I was.
Where I am now — as an openly gay international figure skater — came from a lot of struggle. Not only through the sport and as a show skater, but mostly by finding my own identity as a person.
I was born in Chula Vista, Calif., in San Diego County. The first time I tried ice skating was not pleasant. I started by skating along the wall, but after a while I was able to skate on my own. I started to imitated the moves I saw on TV and I was told by a coach to find my parents and take lessons. The rest is history
When I was growing up, being gay was treated as a joke, but I learned more about myself in college. It was difficult to balance school and skating and I gave up school to be part of Team Philippines. (I am a U.S. male figure skater, but I am also of Filipino heritage, have dual citizenship and am eligible to represent the Philippines.)
During the time I focused on training, I met people from the LGBTQ+ community and it helped me accept and learn about myself. I was out socially but not to my family and closest friends. During college, I came out to one of my greatest friends, and he was a devout Christian. He told me, “I know God loves you.” To this day, he was one of my greatest supporters.
I was not the most talented skater, but I did have the drive to follow my passion. I came out as gay as an adult and being out to my peers in skating helped me develop a strong motivation and a sense of freedom. However, I still was not comfortable enough to tell my family.
During the time I was discovering myself, I qualified for my senior debut at the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. And a year later, I represented the Philippines in international competition.
Being part of Team Philippines exposed me to people from different cultures and I learned how to act on the international scene in order to be liked. Looking back, I realized that I was still living in other people’s reality and not for myself. The feeling of wanting to be liked or relevant was dreadful. Today, I see skating differently, and I behave differently as well.
In early 2012, I was competing for the Philippines in three different international competitions and in each competition I made history.
I was the first Filipino representative to medal in a senior international competition, the first to place Top 12 in ISU Four Continents Championships and the first to qualify for the free program at the ISU World Figure Skating Championship by placing 21st in the world. After three years of competing for Philippines, due to my family’s financial trouble, I decided to retire from competition and become a show skater.
Another reason I left the competitive part of the sport was realizing how much I didn’t enjoy it. However, retirement made me see skating differently. During those times as a show skater, I became part of a world where I got to know thousands of people from more than 30 countries and it made me see people in a different light.
I traveled all around the world and I started opening up to people and learned to love myself and what I do as a career. I came out on Facebook to my family members when gay marriage became legal in all 50 states in 2015.
I enjoyed skating in shows because we were highly appreciated by the fans. During those moments, I learned to respect what I do and know that figure skating is something not everyone can do. During that time, I rarely put a foot wrong because I had pride in what I do and I was open to learning every day. These times were the best of my life. My greatest daily goal was to be kind to myself. That is what I focused on when I came back to compete in figure skating again.
Coming out and coming back were just what I needed. I was asked to compete for the Philippines again, as they were to host the 2019 Southeast Asia Games. Going from show skater back to athlete was very difficult, but I had the drive to keep going. I learned to respect the sport a lot more, and as an out person, I felt I had a sense of responsibility to represent both the Philippines and those in the LGBTQ+ community
I competed internationally again and won my first competition, held in Romania in 2019. That made me the first openly gay athlete representing the Philippines to win an international competition on the senior level. That year, I competed in three different International competitions and made Top 10 in each, and in November 2019 I became the Southeast Asian Games silver medalist.
With Covid-19, 2020 was a tough year and my regular ice rink in San Diego County was closed. However, I came back fully to train once it reopened and it taught me how to adjust.
I am now in the qualification process for the Olympics in 2022. I have no high expectations because there are hundreds of talented athletes who are trying to qualify. In addition, figure skating has evolved over the last four years with higher technical difficulties, and the top competitors are all commonly young talented athletes. But I will do my best.
My message to young athletes looking up to Olympians is that behind every athlete, gay or straight, is a person who has struggled in some way — mentally, physically or both. Nothing is easy, but if it was, then anyone could do it.
My advice is to listen to yourself, be good to yourself and be around people who love you unconditionally. And remember to do your best and enjoy the moment.
Christopher Caluza, 30, is a U.S. figure skating national competitor and three-time Philippine national champion. He is also a four-time international medalist, four-time ISU Four Continents Championships competitor and three-time ISU World Figure Skating Championships competitor. He is currently in training with the hope of representing the Philippines in the 2022 Olympics. A part-time figure skating coach, he wants to coach full time after retiring and also pursue photography. He can be reached on Instagram (@christophercaluza_official).
Story editor: Jim Buzinski
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