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“Gay rights have come so far in this country, even in sports, and I thought when I came out, that more athletes would come out,” says Rapinoe, who came out publicly in 2012 in an interview with Out Magazine. She notes that even Wambach, whose kiss became famous, never publicly came out. “There hasn’t really been anyone else,” Rapinoe says, “and while we’ve come so far, I think oftentimes in women’s sports, because we can be quite open with our teams, it can actually hinder people from coming out publicly because they think, ‘Why do I need to get up on a soapbox and declare it?’ But I think it’s still really important, because there is still a lot of homophobia in sports, and I think a female athlete coming out can help create a more open environment for men’s sports as well and sort of break down the stereotypes of female athletes. Not all female athletes are gay. A portion of us are, but it’s not everyone, and hopefully more athletes will come out and really fill in that picture. Because I think it’s pretty incomplete now.” She notes men’s soccer player Robbie Rogers and basketball player Jason Collins—both who came out in recent years, becoming the first openly gay athletes in any of the four North American professional sports leagues—and the adversity they both faced afterward. She also mentions Michael Sam, the former professional football player who left the sport shortly after coming out, in part due to the way he was treated in the wake of his coming out. “The NFL says they’re being inclusive,” Rapinoe says, “but they’re obviously not. It’s still not safe for people to come out.” To help change the landscape for gay athletes, Rapinoe volunteers with Athlete Ally, an organization that focuses on ending homophobia and transphobia in sports. She also dedicates much of her time to organizations such as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, through which she advocates for LGBT rights and education. Along with a host of honors she received after the World Cup in 2011—among them she was a finalist for Sports Illustrated’s Most Inspiring Performers of 2012—Rapinoe was honored by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center for her work in bringing awareness to LGBT athletes. Last year, she was also inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame. There may be a lot of work to do, but Rapinoe is at the forefront of that work, fighting for inclusivity, dismantling biases, and creating safer environments for athletes and kids. “When you’re not fully willing to be yourself,” she says, “it can really play into the stereotypes. Coming out and being your authentic self helps break that down.”

M A R T I N G U I TA R . C O M |


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