(NEW YORK) -- Kumi Yokoyama, a forward for the National Women's Soccer League's Washington Spirit and the Japanese national team, came out as a transgender man in a video posted to YouTube by fellow footballer Yuki Nagasato on Sunday.
Yokoyama, who uses they/them pronouns, said they were encouraged to share their story after living in the United States and Germany.
We support and are so proud of you Kumi💙🏳️⚧️Thank you for showing the world it's ok to embrace who you are! https://t.co/Gi7btIAT7l— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) June 19, 2021
The 28-year-old played for Japan in the 2019 World Cup. They said they had undergone top surgery when they were 20, and plan to have further surgeries after they retire from playing.
"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 [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."
They also said that seeing Canada midfielder Quinn sharing their own story publicly encouraged them to speak out. Quinn, who announced that they are transgender on Instagram last year, also wore a "Protect Trans Kids" sweatshirt before a game.
Yokoyama said that seeing Quinn wear the sweatshirt made them "[realize] that it was what taking action looks like. 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."
"I don't think there's ever a right moment to do something like this," Quinn wrote when they publicly announced that they are transgender. "I understood that there was going to be backlash."