Lesbian Visibility at Women's World Cup Has Impact Far Off the Field

Gay men in professional soccer have been slower to come out

The U.S. Women’s National Team, which will battle the Netherlands at the Women’s World Cup final in France on Sunday, boasts three world titles and five out and proud LGBTQ players. Two of its soccer stars — Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris — are engaged, and the team’s coach, Jillian Ellis, is also an out lesbian.

Women in the sport are also coming out internationally, NBC News reports: Approximately 40 lesbian and bisexual players participated in the Women’s World Cup this year, compared to less than 20 in 2015, according to LGBTQ sports site Outsports. The Netherlands, which will face the United States in the final, also has five openly LGBTQ players.

This increasing visibility is a sign that sports are becoming more inclusive, said Cheryl Cooky, associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies at Purdue University and co-author of “No Slam Dunk: Gender, Sport, and the Unevenness of Social Change.”

“I think it signifies partly this new generation of young women who are coming into the sport, who have grown up in a different cultural context wherein being openly out, being queer, being non-gender conforming — whatever kind of identity — are not stigmatized to the extent to which they were in the past,” Cooky told NBC News.

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