Earlier this week, President Joe Biden praised two professional athletes — Carl Nassib, a defensive end for the Las Vegas Raiders, and Kumi Yokoyama, a forward for the Washington Spirit — for coming out as LGBTQ.
The president praised the athletes for their decision to share their identities with their teammates and the larger public, noting that their decision provides an example for LGBTQ-identifying youth to look up to, reports CNN.
“To Carl Nassib and Kumi Yokoyama — two prominent, inspiring athletes who came out this week: I’m so proud of your courage. Because of you, countless kids around the world are seeing themselves in a new light today,” Biden tweeted.
To Carl Nassib and Kumi Yokoyama – two prominent, inspiring athletes who came out this week: I’m so proud of your courage. Because of you, countless kids around the world are seeing themselves in a new light today.
— President Biden (@POTUS) June 23, 2021
On Monday, Nassib became the first active NFL player in league history to announce he is gay. His announcement, and his status on the Raiders, build on the legacy of Michael Sam, who was the first out gay man to be drafted onto an NFL team, but never rose higher than the practice squad of the Dallas Cowboys and never started a regular season game during his brief time in the league.
Nassib made the announcement in a video posted to Instagram in which he said he felt that “representation and visibility were important,” adding that he looked forward to the day when coming out would not be necessary. He also donated $100,000 to The Trevor Project, the nation’s top suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth.
Yokoyama, who plays in the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States and for the Japanese women’s national soccer team, came out as a transgender man in an interview posted to YouTube last Saturday.
“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,” they said. “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.”
Biden’s support for both athletes isn’t unusual — after all, the president has a history, back when he was vice president to former President Barack Obama, of standing up for LGBTQ rights. In 2012, well before even the Obama re-election team was ready to come out in favor of marriage equality, it was Biden who opened the door to the Democratic Party changing its position on the issue.
The Biden administration has tried to reverse some of the Trump administration’s more harmful LGBTQ policies, reversing the ban on transgender active duty military personnel, issuing new guidance stating that anti-LGBTQ discrimination in schools should be treated as an illegal form of sex discrimination under Title IX, and directing federal agencies to prohibit forms of anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
That has borne fruit, for example, in new rules issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that reverse the Trump administration’s position that shelter administrators can discriminate against and turn away transgender people based on their gender identity.
The president has also spoken out against a proliferation of bills being floated in nearly three dozen legislatures seeking to curb the rights of transgender people, in particular transgender youth, by barring them from competing in sports based on their gender identity and denying them access to gender-affirming care.
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