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Japan women's international soccer star and Washington Spirit forward Kumi Yokoyama came out Sunday as a transgender man.
"I've dated several women over the years but I had to stay closeted in Japan," the NWSL player said during the interview. "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."
Yokoyama, 27, made the announcement in a video interview with English subtitles posted to the YouTube channel of fellow Japanese soccer star and former teammate Yuki Nagasato.
Yokoyama uses the they/their pronoun. They said they felt living in both the United States and Germany helped prompt them to come out and reveal their identity.
Yokoyama said they had undergone "top surgery" when they were 20 years old to remove breast tissue and that when they officially retire from professional soccer, they will pursue additional gender-affirming surgeries.
"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."
In a tweet responding to one Yokoyama posted to their own Twitter account, the Spirit expressed their support for Yokoyama.
"We support and are so proud of you Kumi," the Spirit said. "Thank you for showing the world it's ok to embrace who you are!"
Yokoyama has played sparingly for the Spirit this season and has scored just one goal, and they played for Japan in the 2019 Women's World Cup.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Japanese soccer star Kumi Yokoyama comes out as transgender man