Spanish water polo star Víctor Gutiérrez recalls the first time he was called an antigay slur

In a new interview with 20 Minutos, Spanish water polo star Víctor Gutiérrez opens up about his coming out experience as well as the bullying he endured as a child and still to this day.

“When I was eight years old it was the first time they called me a f*ggot,” he recalls. “I didn’t even know what it meant. I had to ask.”

Gutiérrez came out publicly in 2016. He remains one of only a few professional water polo players in Europe to do so. Looking back, he says sharing his truth was “the most courageous and important decision of my life.”

But that doesn’t mean it has been easy.

Gutiérrez says he still faces a lot of homophobia from certain players, including one teammate who told him, “I’d rather have a son with Down Syndrome than a f*ggot.”

Last year, he took to social media to call out a rival player who made homophobic remarks during a match between CN Terrassa, for which Gutiérrez plays, and CN Sabadell.

Gutiérrez reported the comments to the referees. Per Spanish Swimming Federation rules, the incident should have been officially noted. Instead, the whole thing went unpunished.

“This happens every day in swimming pools, soccer fields, tennis courts,” Gutiérrez said at the time. “And it is not only experienced by professionals, but also by children.”

Speaking to 20 Minutos, Gutiérrez says that, despite the abuse he’s suffered, he still has hope for the future, saying it’s possible to “reach the sport’s elite as an LGBTQ person.”

But, he adds, “this fight is not just for LGTBQ people. It is a matter for everyone. I invite everyone to become an agent of change and fight for a society that is free from homophobia.”