Out US midfielder Megan Rapinoe was the subject of an interview with the New York Times this week, in which she discussed the new US women’s soccer league, her role for the French team Olympique Lyonnais, what being out means in France, and how she is perceived by her teammates and fans. The new US soccer league, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), was announced earlier this year, and so far it includes eight teams; the Washington Spirit, Seattle Reign FC, Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC, the FC Kansas City, Western New York Flash, and Portland Thorns FC.
“Of course I want to see the league do well and everyone to love it,” she said. “But I also want us to be realistic.” The NWSL is the third attempt at establishing a popular women’s league in the US, and Rapinoe said she intends to join the Seattle team this summer, but only after she finishes her run with the Olympique Lyonnais, the winners of six consecutive French league championships and two straight European titles.
Rapinoe received a serious raise for her services, but it wasn’t just the money or the skill set of her teammates that attracted her to international ball, it was also the experience of playing in a different country, she told the Times.
“In the beginning, I joked with people that I felt a little bit like Helen Keller — like I couldn’t fully express myself,” Rapinoe said of being in France. “Obviously, that’s overstating it, but that feeling isn’t usual for me. In America, I’ve got something to say on just about everything. Here, less so — mostly because I didn’t really know how to say it.”
And Rapinoe has a reputation for always expressing herself. She came out publicly last summer in an interview with Out magazine. Before that, she came out eight years ago to her family and friends. Coincidentally, her older sister (and twin) by 11 minutes also came out at the same time, only after they came out to each other during their sophomore year at the University of Portland. Rapinoe credited her US teammate, Lori Lindsey, with giving her the drive to come out publicly. During the team’s flight home from the 2011 World Cup in Germany, Lindsey, who is also gay, said she should not be hesitant to simply say who she was.
But there is an uneasiness in France with being out and playing with a new team, and in a foreign country Perceptions about women in Europe are not necessarily as progressive as some people might think, Rapinoe told the Times. “There’s still a machismo here, and I would have thought the reverse.” Once her contract is up, Rapinoe said she plans to return home to the states, and to her long-term girlfriend, Aussie soccer player Sarah Walsh.