"I don't want to be ashamed of part of me, I just want to be proud," Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthy tells PEOPLE at Elton John's AIDS Foundation Benefit

By Kristen Caires
Updated November 06, 2015 12:30 PM
Credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty

World champion U.S. Olympic freeskier Gus Kenworthyrecently came out as gay in the November issue of ESPN the Magazine. Now, he’s sharing his relationship status.

Kenworthy opened up to PEOPLE about why he chose to come out publicly: “I got to a point where it was really painful and it was taking a lot out of me,” he said at Elton John’s 14th Annual An Enduring Vision Benefit Gala.

He added that he was tired of “trying to keep up the facade, constantly lying and avoiding questions and dodging answers.”

“I just wanted to get to a point where I was free – I don’t want to be ashamed of part of me, I just want to be proud of it. And I encourage that of other people.”

Now that Kenworthy has nothing to hide, he told PEOPLE that he is seeing someone, though it’s still new.

He admits he was nervous before sharing the news of his sexuality, but the reception has been “amazing,” especially within the skiing community.

“It was a shock to them,” he said. “I had told one friend that I ski with and compete against and other than that nobody knew, so I didn’t really know how they were going to react.”

“I was overwhelmed by how positive the response has been,” he added.

Kenworthy told his mother he was gay a little over a year ago and his father only several months ago. “They took it really well,” he said. “I knew they would. But it’s still scary to tell them.”

As for those stray dogs he rescued during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, they live with Kenworthy’s ex-boyfriend, but “they’re doing well.”