One day before NFL player Carl Nassib became the first openly gay active member of the league, soccer player Kumi Yokoyama came out as a transgender man. The forward for the Washington Spirit and Japan’s national team made the announcement during a YouTube video posted to the channel of another Japanese footballer, Yūki Nagasato, on June 20th.
“When my girlfriend said there was no reason for me to stay closeted, it really hit me,” Yokoyama says in the video. “Coming out wasn’t something I was enthusiastic about, but if I think about my life going forward, it would be harder to live closeted, so I found the courage to come out.”
During the video, the athlete notes they were inspired by Canadian soccer player Quinn, who came out as transgender through an Instagram post in September 2020.
Washington Spirit Forward Wants to Create a More Accepting Society
Yokoyama says when they saw Quinn don a sweatshirt with the words “protect trans kids,” they realized they wanted to be the kind of person who takes action towards creating a more accepting society.
In the video, they also share details about their experience in Japan, the United States and Germany, noting the culture in Germany and the U.S. is generally more accepting of LGBTQ+ individuals.
“I’ve dated several women over the years, but I had to stay closeted in Japan because I was in the public eye and I couldn’t allow myself to come out in my position. But when I first went to Germany and the U.S., I chatted with my teammates about love. In Japan I’d always be asked if I had a boyfriend, but here and in Germany I’m asked if I have a boyfriend or girlfriend. I mean that is normal – people who are living here, they are broad-minded.”
People Should Speak up, Says Washington Spirit Player
However, Yokoyama goes on to say Japan is becoming more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, and they’re seeing it featured in the media more often. They say people in a position like theirs should speak up to continue advancing our society towards a more compassionate culture.
In the days following their announcement, Yokoyama has received a flurry of positive and supportive social media posts. This includes one from President Joseph Biden who commended NFL player Carl Nassib for coming out in the same tweet, proving Nassib and Yokoyama are two of the most inspirational people in the sports world right now.
The White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to Biden’s tweet, noting that “representation and visibility matters.”
Washington Spirit Expresses Their Support to Yokoyama
Yokoyama’s team also expressed support, thanking them for showing the world it’s okay to embrace who you are. In a follow-up tweet, the Washington Spirit also reminded the public that Yokoyama uses they/them pronouns.
Unfortunately, the tweet has also received several unsupportive replies, with many people questioning whether Yokoyama should be allowed to continue playing in the women’s league.
However, the overwhelming majority of responses towards Yokoyama’s announcement are positive and supportive. Yokoyama decided to come out during Pride Month, which celebrates LGBTQ+ culture and reflects on Pride’s beginnings – the protests and Stonewall riots that sparked a revolution. Yokoyama’s announcement marks another stride forward towards a more LGBTQ+ friendly sports world.
Lead image credit ISI Photos