U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday tweeted his support for the former Nadeshiko Japan striker Kumi Yokoyama, who came out as transgender on Saturday, and Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib, who announced on Monday that he was gay — becoming the first active NFL player to do so.
“To Carl Nassib and Kumi Yokoyama — two prominent, inspiring athletes who came out this week: I’m so proud of your courage,” Biden tweeted from his @POTUS account. “Because of you, countless kids around the world are seeing themselves in a new light today.”
Yokoyama, who currently plays for the Washington Spirit and represented Japan at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, intends to live as a man after quitting soccer. Their announcement came in a video posted to the YouTube channel of friend and former Nadeshiko teammate Yuki Nagasato on Saturday.
“In the future when there are others like me, in soccer or in other sports, I hope they’ll be able to say “Well, (Yokoyama) came out so I can come out too,” Yokoyama said in the video.
Thank you so much 😭😭😭 https://t.co/Sx088EURck
— Kumi Yokoyama/横山 久美 (@yoko10_official) June 23, 2021
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, WE League Chairperson Kikuko Okajima commended Yokoyama for their “bravery” and said she hoped Japan’s new professional women’s soccer circuit would be able to promote tolerance and understanding towards sexual minorities in a nation where mainstream LGBTQ acceptance has only started to build momentum in recent years.
“Yokoyama came out in a way that shows they want to live on their own terms,” Okajima said. “In their video, they said were able to come out because they’re in America, and they wouldn’t have been able to do that in Japan,” Okajima said. “Athletes have a very high place in U.S. society, and as Biden said they have the power to give courage to younger people who are closeted.
“Through the launch of the WE League, we want to promote the acceptance of sexual diversity within women’s sports and show that it’s okay to live how you want.”
Asked if Prime Minister Suga agreed with Biden’s message, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato offered more measured support for the LGBTQ community within Japan in comments that came one week after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party failed to pass a bill promoting LGBTQ understanding.
“We recognize that diversity is important and that everyone’s dignity and human rights should be respected, and we want to engage in creating a community in which everyone can live freely,” Kato said.
Nassib, who joined the Raiders in 2020 after playing a combined four seasons with the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, said in an Instagram video that “I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get this off my chest.
“I hope one day videos like this and the whole coming out process are not necessary, but until then I’m going to do my best, and do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting (and) compassionate,” he added before saying he would donate $100,000 to the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth advocacy and suicide prevention group.
The pair joined a relatively small but growing group of athletes who have come out as LGBTQ during their competitive careers, earning praise from activists and athlete’s groups.
“Huge respect for @yoko10_official and their bravery in sharing their story so authentically. A powerful and inspiring message,” global soccer player union FIFPRO tweeted on Wednesday.
In an earlier tweet, FIFPRO said of Nassib: “It’s a moment for athletes across sport and genders to be proud of and inspired by, as we keep striving for environments where all players can freely be themselves.”
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