Juan Mendoza-Tovar just came out publicly as bisexual after graduating from high school in rural Washington, where he was captain of the varsity basketball and tennis teams, played on the varsity football team, was voted prom king by his classmates, and won a school award for his involvement. On top of his triple varsity-athlete status and visibility in his school community, Juan grew up in a household with traditional Mexican parents, which made his coming out experience even harder.
Despite his successes, Juan knew that he wasn't happy and that he needed to be his true self. So after the graduation festivities were over Juan took to Twitter to make his public coming out announcement. He tweeted:
"Honestly this has had to be the hardest thing to overcome in my life. The constant struggle to try and fit in but still try to be myself has led me to the point of realizing it's more important to be myself than to try and please everyone else. On that note, I think it's time to let people know, who don't already know, that I'm bisexual. Who I am truly doesn't change any relationships or friendships that I have built over the years. I'm still the same guy you played sports with, still the same guy you saw at school or out and about and I'm still the same Juan you became friends with. If anything I believe it should strengthen these friendships. I also don't see a point in making this a big deal because it's me and it's just who I am. Like I said I'm still Juan."
No perfect time or way to say this but I need to say it. Please read: pic.twitter.com/OOpsc2cmYv
— Juan Manuel (@jmmendoza32) June 28, 2014
Juan followed in the footsteps of Conner Mertens, a football player at Willamette University in Oregon who came out publicly as bisexual earlier this year. Juan was inspired by Conner's courage and wanted to help pay the favor forward to inspire more young athletes to come out. Conner posted a letter to Twitter in which he said:
"Now I'd like to talk to anyone struggling with the same situation. You are not alone. You do not need to come out but you do need to know that you do not have to go at this by yourself. The aloneness you're feeling is temporary and it will get better. This place is changing…changing for the better. I made the decision that if I could prevent one person from feeling that self-hatred, loneliness, desperation and a thousand other emotions that I felt, I would. I will be damned if I let anyone tell you that you are wrong or weird or not normal. Love yourself and allow others to love you. Be who you are and know you're not alone."
And later on in his post, said "Don't let society dictate who you can and cannot be simply because it doesn't fit their perception of who you are supposed to be."
Conner's advice certainly struck a chord with Juan. Conner mentored Juan for the last few months to help him build the strength to come out. And Juan told Outsports that contrary to his fears, his parents took the announcement well. He said, "They told me I'm still their son and they still love me."
Juan's courage to speak his truth and help to shatter stereotypes about masculinity and athletes is an accomplishment that is sure to inspire many other young athletes and boys who are struggling with their own identities. Just like Conner did for Juan, one person's courage can inspire someone else to help change the world.