USWNT defender Taylor Smith has had a fairly charmed year on the field. She went from her first call up to the WNT in January to playing all three games in the Tournament of Nations and picking up two assists against Japan on the way. She’s a starter for her club, the North Carolina Courage, after going undrafted in 2016. And now Smith is making moves in her personal life as well, discussing her identity as a lesbian and how she came out.
Smith posted a youtube video today in which she said, “I just wanted to share my personal coming out story.” Smith recounts her history, growing up knowing that she is gay but feeling as though she has to hide it.
“I grew up in a small private school in Texas,” she says in the video. “I went there from kindergarten through 12th grade. It was a predominantly white school and so I felt I had to do anything to fit in. Being gay at that time was something that was not accepted, it wasn’t supported. It was wrong, it was weird. I wanted just to do anything to fit in and so I hid every day who I was even though I knew exactly who I wanted to be.”
Smith tried to date boys, but never felt a connection. “I just think back to my younger years and how much happier I would have been if I could truly express who I was and who I am,” she says.
Eventually she left Texas for UCLA, where she eventually came out to her teammates and began building the life she really wanted.
“Once you finally say it and say it out loud, it feels completely different than you just knowing and you finally realize you’re not alone,” says Smith. “There are so many people who feel this way. So many people have gone through it. And it sucks because there are so many kids out there and I don’t want them to go through the same struggle and fight with themselves the way I did.”
She also discusses how she is judged because of her style, which is not always stereotypically feminine, and how her teammates both in college and at the Courage have stood by her.
“What I’ve learned is it’s okay to cry about it because it’s not okay for it to happen,” says Smith. “I think what’s important for people to know is what’s not okay is thinking you’re unloved or you don’t belong here, thinking that no one will accept you for who you are. And I think that is not true. There are so many people out here that love you and support you and I am one of those people. I don’t know who you are but I support you being you and I hope you are so happy and I hope one day you can come to terms with who you are and always be happy and have a genuine smile on your face.”
You can watch the whole thing here:
Smith being more open about her identity as a lesbian just as she finds some purchase and international exposure with the WNT is a sign of the team’s increasing diversity. She follows in the footsteps of Megan Rapinoe, who came out in 2012 before the Olympics, and Tasha Kai, who spoke openly about having a girlfriend also leading up to the 2008 Olympics. These are all players who identified as queer while still actively playing at the highest levels of the sport; Smith also sets an example as an out woman of color, which presents its own intersectional issues, as Smith alluded to when discussing her predominantly white school and how that added to the pressure to fit in. Racism is a problem within the LGBT community too, and simply by being open, honest, and successful, Smith provides the kind of representation that she herself probably would have taken to heart as a child.
Hopefully young soccer fans and players searching desperately for any reflection of themselves will feel a little less alone and little more hopeful with Taylor Smith out there on the pitch.