From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
When Barbara Walters asked Ricky Martin to address rumors that he was gay during a 2000 interview, he demurred, saying, "You've got to keep something for yourself sometimes." Ten years later the Puerto Rican-born star finally decided to stop shielding that side of himself from the world. "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man," Martin wrote on his website, rickymartinmusic.com, March 29. Having recently begun writing his memoir, the "Livin' La Vida Loca" singer, 38, confessed to his fans he was ready to free himself from "things that were too heavy for me to keep inside."

Martin-who publicly dated women, including Mexican model and TV host Rebecca de Alba, during the '90s (their on-and-off relationship lasted for more than a decade)-also credits his twin sons Matteo and Valentino (born via gestational surrogate in August 2008) for his revelation. "This is just what I need, especially now that I am the father of two beautiful boys that are so full of light and who, with their outlook, teach me new things every day," Martin wrote. "To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids were born with. Enough is enough."

Martin blamed fear and career insecurities for his decision to keep his sexuality quiet. The singer says he was told repeatedly "all the years you've worked and everything you've built will collapse" if he revealed his homosexuality-and he believed it. But fan and peer support has been pouring in. His pal Eva Longoria Parker tweeted, "You are inspiring and beautiful, te quiero mucho [I love you very much]!" The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation applauded Martin for his "decision to model this kind of openness and honesty." And people.com readers posted their overwhelmingly positive reactions. Says one: "Good for him! ... I still adore you! Now even more!"

"What will happen from now on? It doesn't matter," Martin says. "The word 'happiness' takes on a new meaning for me.... It has been a very intense process.... Writing this is a solid step toward my inner peace and [a] vital part of my evolution."