Trans football star Kumi Yokoyama has opened up about their coming out journey in a new interview.
Earlier this year, the US-based footballer – who goes by they/them pronouns – made headlines after they came out as a trans man.
“In the future, I want to quit soccer and live as a man,” the 27-year-old revealed on YouTube.
Yokoyama’s monumental announcement was immediately embraced by the sports community and political figures like President Joe Biden.
Taking to Twitter, the 46th president praised the young athlete and NFL player Carl Nassib for their “courage.”
“Because of you, countless kids around the world are seeing themselves in a new light today,” he wrote.
Six months later, Yokoyama has now opened up about their coming out journey in a new interview with The Japan Times.
When asked about the public’s positive reception, the young athlete said it was ”beyond” their expectations.
“I should say, it’s not that I expected a reaction; it’s that I didn’t think it would become as big as it did,” they said.
Yokoyama went on to say that Biden’s tweet helped elevate the importance of LGBTQ+ issues within Japan.
“I think that a lot of Japanese people became more aware of LGBTQ issues because of what Biden tweeted,” they explained. “It did make me feel like Japan is lagging behind the rest of the world … but I’m happy to see Japanese society make progress, however that happens.
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They also opened up about Japan’s ruling party denying a bill championing LGBTQ+ rights and said it was “progress” that it was even discussed.
“I think it takes a lot of time to get started in any country. For there to even be debate is a sign of progress,” they said.
Towards the end of the interview, Yokoyama talked about their coming out process having a positive effect on their relationship with their partner Nami.
“If I hadn’t come out, we wouldn’t have been able to get engaged. It really felt like I had torn off my shell, and because of that I was able to propose,” they said.
The two officially tied the not after the conclusion of the NWSL season.
In terms of the future, they have plans on seeing their family in Japan for the first time since coming out.
“Judging from the reaction around me, what my friends and family have said … I need to meet them in person but for me I feel like coming out was a big step. I’m glad I did it,” they explained.
Last year was a monumental year for LGBTQ+ athletes within the sports industry.
From Yokoyama and Nassib to Luke Prokok and Bryan Ruby professional athletes are slowly but surely stepping into their truth publicly and proudly.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics also proved to be a game-changer for queer representation, with over 180 openly LGBTQ+ athletes.
According to a report from Openly/Thomson Reuters Foundation, if Team LGBTQ+ competed in this year’s coveted games as a country they would have ranked in seventh place – in front of the Netherlands and behind Australia.
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