Washington Spirit forward Kumi Yokoyama, pronouns they/them, recently came out as transgender in a youtube video recorded by a former teammate.
It wasn’t a decision taken lightly by World Cup star Kumi Yokoyama. They are one of the few athletes to do so in Japan where the process of changing legal gender markers is called ‘abusive’ by the Human Rights Watch.
Yokoyama, who represented Japan at the 2019 Women’s World Cup and currently plays for National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit, told the Japan Times living in the United States made it easier to be “open” about sexuality and gender.
They decided to announce their transition and their extraordinary decision to delay taking Hormones until after they retire so they could live at peace with themselves, their team, and fans.
“Recently, the term LGBTQ has become familiar in Japan, and you see it in the media nowadays,” said the 27-year-old footballer.
“But I thought that if people in my position didn’t speak up, things wouldn’t progress.”
Yokoyama’s message was posted on the YouTube channel of former Japan teammate Yuki Nagasato — a World Cup winner in 2011.
Yokoyama, who wishes to be referred by the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them”, had top surgery at the age of 20.
They intend to have further gender reassignment surgery after they have retired from playing.
The forward said there was pressure to conform to gender norms in Japan, but there was less discrimination in the United States and Germany, where Yokoyama previously played for Frankfurt.
“In Japan, you’re always asked ‘do you have a boyfriend?’, but here it’s normal to ask ‘do you prefer men or women’,” Yokoyama said.
“I hid it from my teammates in the beginning, but they told me it was uncool to hide it, and that I didn’t have to.”
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