The Florida State men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams were coming back from a meet and we got stuck on a plane for a few hours. Someone pulled out their speaker and started playing music.
Out of boredom and feeling very comfortable around my teammates, I decided we needed to get up and dance. I requested “YMCA” by the Village People. Next thing I knew a bunch of my teammates, plus the flight attendant, joined me in dancing to the song.
In this moment I realized I was completely comfortable around my teammates and I was more than just a diver to them. I felt I was like family and they accepted all of me, including my offbeat parts.
I have known since sixth grade that I was gay. I never felt comfortable enough to talk to anyone about it until I was in college. I was confused as to why I was attracted to men. Throughout middle school and high school, I would keep this to myself. I created a fake persona so I could blend in with the guys.
My friends and I would be gathered around our high school in British Columbia, and I would get sick of hearing the guys catcalling and talking about the cute girls. I wanted to scream because I wanted to be able to talk openly and freely about my attraction to men. I just wanted to let out the feelings and emotions that were building up.
I found relief in going to dive practice every day after school. I was escaping being with the “guys,” but also I was still hiding my true self. Diving was a way to get my mind off of all the emotions and feelings of not expressing who I really was. It was an escape for a couple of hours during the day, and my mind would rest while I focused on throwing myself off a 33-foot-high platform.
It wasn’t until the last month of high school that I was able to come out of the closet to a few friends. I saw one of my closest female friends be loving and happy with her girlfriend. I wanted to feel this way, comfortable in my own skin. She was an inspiration to me and made me feel confident.
She was openly bisexual, which helped me gain the courage to come to terms with my own sexual orientation. I remember sitting in my car in a parking lot with her, telling her everything.
Her response was not what I was expecting.
“Aidan, I have known you were gay for years.”
This made me laugh but also took me off guard. I thought I covered it up pretty well, but apparently not. Tears were streaming down my face because this was the first time I accepted my true self, allowing myself to really feel like I was loved and accepted no matter what.
Two years later, as I now attend Florida State University, I look back at the exact moment I finally accepted myself. It was Oct. 11, 2016, National Coming Out Day. On that day I came out publicly, sharing on social media with the entire world that I was gay.
Now that I was finally free and open to the public, I felt relieved. A weight was lifted off of me. I received numerous messages that were supporting me and telling how brave I was to come out. This made me feel at ease, but also made me continue to help other closeted gay people. I wanted to let them know that it is OK to come out and not be afraid of their true self.
When I arrived in Florida for my freshman year, I finally realized that there was no point in hiding who I was. This is a new chapter of my life and I feel comfortable telling fellow athletes that I am gay.
My time here has increased my confidence level, which made me a stronger individual and better athlete. I did not want to have this burden of hiding my sexuality any longer.
A few days before coming out to everyone on social media, I gathered the courage to come out to my parents. Their acceptance was the most important because I look up to them for everything. I knew my mother would be understanding, but just thinking about telling my father made me want to throw up.
Terrifying thoughts went through my head that he would no longer accept me and have a completely different view of his son. Knowing that there was a possibility that my parents might disapprove of who I am was the worst-possible feeling.
Luckily, I am blessed to say that both my parents accept me. Having such a supportive family is the reason coming out was much easier than I thought.
Being an openly gay athlete in college is completely different than it is in high school. In high school I was reserved and did not want to express who I was because of my environment. I went to a high school that was filled with boys who thought they ruled the world. I felt that if I came out at any moment I would be singled out and judged.
In college the environment is different. It feels more welcoming. Even though I have encountered obstacles, I have persevered. Now that I am an openly gay person and athlete, I feel the best I have ever felt being accepted, welcomed and loved among my peers and teammates.
I was so worried to come out as an openly gay man in college because of my fear of being judged based on my high school experiences.
Coming out has made me a better athlete because I am more comfortable and coming into my true self. I am growing into the person I always wanted to be, and this has corresponded with my attitude about diving.
I am a better teammate because I am comfortable being around my team. Their acceptance has helped a lot because they are supportive and welcoming.
This made me have a breakout year last season. I qualified for my first NCAAs as a freshman, which I thought was not going to be possible. I could not have done it without the support of my whole team backing me up from the first day I stepped foot in the diving facility.
If there was one piece of advice I could give any person, regardless of age, gender or sexuality, it is to be yourself and to not let anyone else bring you down. This is your life, so own it and live how you want.
It is sad how we have to classify ourselves into an already preconceived notion of what normal is. We in the LGBTQ community should not be scared to come out and show our true selves. Once I got over this notion and felt comfortable in my own skin, I realized it should not be such a big deal to come out.
In the end, we are all human beings and deserve to be treated as equals. Yes, I am a human being. Yes, I am gay. Yes, I am proud.
Aidan Faminoff, 19, is a sophomore in the Class of 2020 at Florida State University. He is majoring in International Affairs and is a diver on the school’s swimming and diving team. A native of British Columbia, he won a bronze medal at the 2015 Junior Pan Am Championships in 3-meter synchro for Team Canada, and won bronze on platform at the 2016 Canadian Olympic Trials. He can be reached via Instagram (@AidanFaminoff) or Facebook: Aidan Faminoff.
Story editor: Jim Buzinski