Olympian Danell Leyva says stereotypes about male gymnasts held him back from coming out as queer

Lily Wakefield
·3-min read

Three-time Olympic gymnastics medallist Danell Leyva has explained how stereotypes about male gymnasts held him back from coming out as queer.

Danell Leyva has competed at two Olympic Games, winning all-around bronze at London 2012 and silver for parallel bars and horizontal bar at Rio 2016.

This year, on National Coming Out Day (October 11), he came out in a Twitter thread.

He wrote: “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).”

He explained in an interview with Olympic Channel that stereotypes around male gymnasts were part of what kept him in the closet.

Leyva said: “[The 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.

“It wasn’t somebody that was trying to help us understand [our sexuality]. It was just somebody pointing at us and that doesn’t feel good.”

But after posting about his sexuality on Twitter, he received an outpouring of love and support from fans, as well as from fellow Olympic gymnasts champions Aly Raisman, Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez.

“In the post, I said that I’m still trying to figure out between whether I’m a bi or pan,” he said.

“It was nice to have people be like, ‘You don’t have to label it… It’s an ever-changing fluid thing, so you don’t have to worry about that.’ That was nice because that was certainly reassuring.”

Danell Leyva
Danell Leyva of the United States competes on the Horizontal Bar Final on Day 11 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Arena on August 16, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Julian Finney/Getty)

Although coming out was “absolutely terrifying” for the Olympic champion, he said: “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.”

Leyva continued: “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.’

“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.”

He added: “Everybody’s different, you know? And at the same time, we’re not.

“We’re all very similar in a way, and it’s beautiful because the sense of community that we can acquire if we just sit and talk with each other is amazing.”