Japanese soccer star Kumi Yokoyama comes out as transgender

a female football player on a field

The 27-year-old Washington Spirit forward becomes one of the highest-profile names in Japanese sports to come out as transgender.

Washington Spirit forward Kumi Yokoyama came out as transgender in a video interview on former Japan teammate Yūki Nagasato’s YouTube channel.

Yokoyama becomes one of the highest-profile names in Japanese sports to come out as transgender, saying living in the United States and Germany played a major factor in going public.

“I’ve dated several women over the years but I had to stay closeted in Japan,” Yokoyama said in the interview, which was translated by The Japan Times. “In Japan I’d always be asked if I had a boyfriend, but [in the United States] I’m asked if I have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

“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.”

The 27-year-old said they had top surgery to remove breast tissue seven years ago without hormonal treatments, as taking hormones would have put them at risk of failing doping tests. Yokoyama said they are planning to undergo more gender-affirming procedures once they retire.

Yokoyama said that OL Reign midfielder Quinn’s decision to come out as transgender in 2020 also served as an inspiration to become an activist for transgender rights.  

“Lately the word ‘LGBTQ’ has become more commonly known in Japan and been covered by the media, but people in my position aren’t able to raise our voices and talk about it,” Yokoyama said. “Japan may be a small country, but if all of us speak up together then we can help raise awareness.”

Yokoyama has played sparingly for the Washington Spirit this season, scoring one goal for the side in the NWSL Challenge Cup.

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