Kumi Yokoyama: Footballer praised by US President Joe Biden for coming out as transgender

Kumi

US President Joe Biden has tweeted his support for Washington Spirit forward Kumi Yokoyama after the footballer came out as a transgender man this week.

Yokoyama was part of Japan’s team at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup and has made 43 appearances for their country in total.

The 27-year-old joined the Washington Spirit in 2019 and has scored one goal so far this season against the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL Challenge Cup.

The Japanese star revealed in a YouTube interview with former teammate Yuki Nagasato that in the future they wanted to “quit soccer and live as a man.”

"I've dated several women over the years but I had to stay closeted in Japan," they said.

Yokoyama’s decision to disclose this information is incredibly brave given their home country’s lack of protection for transgender people.

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In Japan, those who identify as transgender are forced to have their reproductive organs removed in order to have their gender acknowledged on official documents and Yokoyama admitted: “I would not have come out in Japan.”

Speaking on social media, President Biden emphasised his admiration for the Japanese forward as well as NFL star Carl Nassib, who recently became the first active NFL player to come out as gay.

He tweeted: “To Carl Nassib and Kumi Yokoyama – two prominent, inspiring athletes who came out this week: “I’m so proud of your courage. Because of you, countless kids around the world are seeing themselves in a new light today.”

Washington Spirit also posted a message of support online, writing: “Thank you [Yokoyama] for showing the world it’s OK to embrace who you are.”

The former Frankfurt player is the highest-profile Japanese athlete to come out as transgender and cited OL Reign midfielder Quinn as an inspiration.

The Canadian went public with their transition in 2020 and told the BBC that there were still “spaces of ignorance” in women’s football when it came to gender identity.

Yuki

Indeed, Yokoyama’s announcement comes at a time when there is widespread discussion by sporting governing bodies on policies towards transgender athlete participation.

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at an Olympics, and as more athletes like Quinn and Yokoyama come out to the world, many more may well follow suit.

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