Professional footballer Kumi Yokoyama has come out as a transman.
In 2019, 27-year-old Kumi Yokoyama was a member of Japan’s national team in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Within the Cup, Yokoyama scored 17 goals in 43 international appearances, according to Manichi. Later, the athlete moved to the US and played for Washington Spirit in the National Women’s Soccer League. But now, Yokoyama is being celebrated for coming out as transgender.
As the Japan Times reports, Yokoyama came out through an interview video on the YouTube channel of former Nadeshiko Japan teammate Yuki Nagasato. A tweet from Spirit also added that Yokoyama will be using gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them” from now on.
In the 18-minute video, Yokoyama says that they started becoming aware of their gender identity as a child. Back then, they refused to wear feminine clothing for traditional ceremonies and chose to keep their hair cut short. But, it wasn’t until they lived in the U.S.A. and Germany that Yokoyama realized they could be open and out.
“I’ve dated several women over the years but I had to stay closeted in Japan,” Yokoyama said. “In Japan, I’d always be asked if I had a boyfriend, but here I’m asked if I have a boyfriend or girlfriend.”
They added, “When my girlfriend said there was no reason for me to stay closeted, it really hit me. 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.”
Kumi Yokoyama then shared that they’ve already undergone top surgery to remove their breast tissue. They also plan to undergo more gender-affirming procedures in the future.
Thankfully, Yokoyama’s coming out has been received with general acceptance and love. For instance, Spirit manager Richie Burke released a statement in support of Yokoyama.
Kumi uses they/them pronouns…and don't forget it!
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) June 19, 2021
“We have no time for hate, we only have time for love in our football club,” the English coach said. He also shared that the club was aware of Yokoyama’s transition before signing them in 2019.
“I love Kumi, always will, and I’ll always have a special place for somebody with that mentality,” the coach added. “They are very brave, they are very committed to this process, and if that’s what they want to do I’m going to do whatever I can do to support them. As long as they’re happy, I’m happy.”
Kumi Yokoyama’s coming out has also garnered praise from some of Japan’s fellow LGBTQ athletes like Airi Murakami, who came out as a lesbian in April, and Shiho Shimoyamada. In Shimoyamada’s case, he became Japan’s first openly gay professional athlete in February of 2019.
“To smile this much when you’re coming out isn’t very common and it was incredibly moving,” Shimoyamada tweeted. “I hope Kumi’s thoughts reach as many people as possible.”