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Soccer player Shiho Shimoyamada comes out to inspire LGBT athletes

Sofia Lotto Persio March 26, 2019
Shiho Shimoyamada plays for the German women's Bundesliga team Sv Meppen.

Shiho Shimoyamada plays for the German women's Bundesliga team SV Meppen. (SV Meppen frauenfussball/Facebook)

Japanese soccer player Shiho Shimoyamada has come out to inspire other LGBT athletes to do the same ahead of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Shimoyamada, who plays for the team SV Meppen in the German Women’s Bundesliga, told Japanese newspaper Asahi she was dissatisfied with the Olympics organisers’ current efforts to promote LGBT+ participation in sports.

“You don’t see the face of a LGBT person,” the 24-year-old said, in an article published on Sunday (March 24).

She added: “It will be powerful if an actual LGBT athlete sends a message.”

“I knew since high school I was not attracted to men, but it wasn’t until I met other soccer teammates who were not straight that I finally realised I could be who I was.”

— Shiho Shimoyamada

Shimoyamada decided that perhaps she could take matters into her own hands. She began working with Pride House Tokyo, a project aiming to promote awareness of LGBT+ issues before, during and after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics games, sharing her story in a video showing support for LGBT+ athletes.

Shiho Shimoyamada shares her story in Pride House Tokyo video

Shimoyamada is the only openly LGBT+ player featuring in the video who is still involved in professional sports—the only other LGBT+ athlete featured in the video, volleyball player Nanae Takizawa, came out as a lesbian in 2017 following her retirement.

In the video, published on YouTube earlier this month, Shimoyamada said having the support of other LGBT+ teammates encouraged her to openly embrace her sexuality.

“I knew since high school I was not attracted to men, but it wasn’t until I met other soccer teammates who were not straight that I finally realised I could be who I was,” she said.

She added: “For those struggling, let’s take a step forward together. I hope we can see someday soon an environment where we can all enjoy sports openly.”

As parts of the efforts to promote LGBT+ equality and inclusivity ahead of the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance to protect the LGBT+ community in October.

The 24-year-old soccer player hopes to inspire other LGBT athletes to come out.
The 24-year-old soccer player hopes to inspire other LGBT athletes to come out. (Shiho Shimoyamada/Facebook)

The ordinance, which will come into effect in April, enables city authorities to regulate the use of public spaces, such as city parks, to prevent anti-LGBT groups from promoting discriminatory rhetoric.

At the national level, one conservative politician recently expressed frustration at her own party’s unwillingness to increase recognition of LGBT+ people in society, for instance legalising same-sex marriage.
Former Defence minister Tomomi Inada, a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, told Bloomberg: “There is so little understanding that some conservatives think recognising LGBT people will destroy the traditional family, or reduce the birthrate.”

More: 2020 Olympics, Asia, Bundesliga, Japan, Japan, LGBT in sport, Shiho Shimoyamada, SV Meppen

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