Washington Spirit forward Kumi Yokoyama is opening up publicly about their gender identity for the first time.
The Japanese soccer star, 27, who played for Japan in the 2019 World Cup before joining the NWSL team, came out as a transgender man in a video posted Sunday to their Japan national women's soccer teammate Yuki Nagasato's YouTube channel.
Yokoyama said they use they/them pronouns, also revealing they underwent top surgery at 20. They plan to have further surgeries after they retire from the sport, ESPN reported.
"I've dated several women over the years but I had to stay closeted in Japan," they said, according to a translation from ESPN and subtitles on the video. Yokoyama explained that they were compelled to live their truth after living in the United States and Germany. "In Japan I'd always be asked if I had a boyfriend, but here [in the United States] I'm asked if I have a boyfriend or girlfriend."
The FIFA Puskás Award nominee credited their girlfriend with giving them the push they needed to finally come out. "When my girlfriend said there was no reason for me to stay closeted, it really hit me," Yokoyama continued. "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."
They also recalled another inspiring moment when Canadian soccer pro and OL Reign midfielder Quinn, 25, who came out as trans in September, wore a "protect trans kids" sweatshirt before a game.
"I realized that it was what taking action looks like," Yokoyama said. "To be able to accept people you have no relationship with, that's the kind of person I would like to become and I hope we can create that society."
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Yokoyama was met with overwhelming support on Twitter, including a message from their team.
"We support and are so proud of you Kumi," the Washington Spirit posted to their official Twitter. "Thank you for showing the world it's ok to embrace who you are!" The team added in a follow-up tweet, "Kumi uses they/them pronouns...and don't forget it!"