Japanese forward Kumi Yokoyama, who plays for the Washington Spirit in the U.S.-based National Women's Soccer League, has come out as transgender in a YouTube video.
"In the future, I want to quit soccer and live as a man," the 27-year-old said in a 19-minute video published on fellow Japanese player Yuki Nagasato's YouTube channel on Saturday.
Women's World Cup winner Nagasato played with an amateur men's club before she joined NWSL expansion team Racing Louisville FC. In the video, Nagasato said Yokoyama approached her and asked to use her platform to come out publicly.
"More people in Japan are becoming familiar with the acronym LGBTQ and it's seen more (in the media), but I thought if influential people like myself don't come out and use their voices (transgender awareness and acceptance) won't grow," Yokoyama said.
Yokoyama conformed to gender norms in Japan because of social pressures but has felt able to live more honestly and openly in the United States, the player said.
"In Japan people would only ask me if I have a boyfriend or not, but here (in the United States) I'd get asked if I have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Outside of Japan people tend to have big hearts and are more accepting of all gender identities," Yokoyama said.
"When I first told my teammates I was even told it was uncool to hide (my gender or sexual identity). I had to explain to them what Japanese culture is like and why I felt the need to hide...I'm hoping to help lift the voices (of transgender individuals)."
Yokoyama was a member of the "Nadeshiko Japan" team at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup, and has scored 17 goals in 43 international appearances. In December 2019, Yokoyama moved from Japanese club AC Nagano Parceiro to the Washington Spirit.