Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon has delivered a powerful speech about coming out and self-acceptance after receiving the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award.
In February, Rippon became the first openly gay athlete to compete for the United States at a Winter Olympics and helped his US team win a bronze medal in the team figure skating event at the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.
The athlete told the audience that when he was younger, he cared “so much” about what others thought of him.
“I was mindful of the way I dressed, my mannerisms, the way I talked. I was afraid people would think I was weak. I was afraid of making mistakes,” he said.
“I was afraid that I wouldn’t be welcomed by the LGBTQ community because someone like me wouldn’t be the role model they were looking for. Maybe I was too gay, and maybe I was just too myself.
“Throughout my life, I have fallen short many times. I have felt depressed. I felt not good enough.”
Rippon said he felt like “there would never be a day where I would feel like I belonged.”
“I was living life afraid. I remember hearing the quote, ‘What would you do if you weren’t afraid?’” he said.
“I remember really hearing it, and honestly asking myself, ‘What would I do differently?’ I remember making the choice to be unafraid.
“I made the choice to not care what others thought of who I was. I was going to be truly me.
“This was the biggest and most important decision I’d ever made; to live fearlessly, to take risks. To let go of my fear of what others may think of me, and to always keep learning. You will find that you will have your greatest success when you wear your scars proudly.
“Through my shortcomings and from my successes, I’ve learned that a champion is more than a medal. It’s a mindset.
“I used to be afraid to share my authentic self with the world, but today when I walk into a room, I know I’m a star. ‘It’ makes me a star, and I have ‘it’.
“But I have a secret. Everyone in this room has ‘it’ too. Everyone in this room is a star. ‘It’ is true confidence. ‘It’ is authenticity. And ‘it’ is being fearless.”
He ended the speech with a powerful message “to all the young kids out there” who might see the speech.
“Whether you are gay, straight, bi, trans or still on a journey of self-discovery; whether you are white, black, or any color in between… you are smarter than you think,” he said.
“You hold more strength than you may ever know. You are powerful. No matter where you have come from or where you are going to, there is someone who looks up to you, and they will find inspiration in your strength of just being yourself.
“Be a role model, and never forget that you can be someone’s champion. You are a winner. When we all come together, we can change the world.”
He dedicated the award “to those who came before me and who helped make my journey that much easier.”
Watch Adam’s speech in full below: