Thank You, Abby Wambach!

USASoccer WomensWin
USA Soccer Womens Win

Why We (Still) Need Out Lesbians

The Women’s World Cup final between the USA and Japan was a grudge match, even though Abby Wambach said at a press conference the day before the July 5 match that it wasn’t.

Wambach, who is the all-time leading scorer in international soccer with 184 international goals (a full 30 more than the next highest women’s player, USA’s Mia Hamm and nearly twice as many as the highest men’s player, Iran’s Ali Daei) said the US team wasn’t “focused on payback,” but on bringing home the World Cup trophy which has eluded the US team since 1999. The US team lost to Japan in 2011. Japan was also determined to beat the US, having lost to the America in the 2012 Olympics final by a 2-1 score.

Wambach said, “Heartbreak never goes away, but now we have an opportunity, and it’s not about revenge or avenging that loss because this team is different,” said Wambach. But because the match would be her last World Cup, Wambach was psyched to win.

The heartbreak ended Sunday with a 5-2 win over Japan. Midfielder Carli Lloyd made history by kicking a hat trick within the game’s first half hour. Japan never recovered.

Even if soccer isn’t your game, this game was a stunner. But if you are a lesbian soccer fan, well, Abby Wambach won your heart.

Lloyd’s goals–one from more than a half the field away–were phenomenal. But the moment every lesbian in America is talking about is The Kiss Seen Round The World.


Abby Wambach Kissing her Wife

The game ended, the cheering began and Wambach ran across the field to the stands to kiss her wife, former soccer player Sarah Huffman, who was wearing a USA jersey with Wambach’s name and number, 20, on it. The long-haired brunette leaned way out of the stands, bending over to kiss her wife, the world champion.

And we all started crying.



It’s difficult to articulate how this televised kiss was the cherry on the Sunday sundae of the amazing win for the US team. But just ten days after the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage for the entire country, seeing one of the biggest women’s sports figures in the world kiss on international TV? Priceless.


These moments matter. They are fleeting and may seem insignificant to those who aren’t lesbian or gay, but I kept thinking of all the young lesbians across the U.S. and elsewhere watching this kiss and feeling a wave of inclusion wash over them.


While Lloyd was the star of the final match, Wambach’s role in women’s soccer can’t be overstated. She’s got a lock on that number of international goals scored–among women AND men. Wambach has played for the US women’s national soccer team since 2001 and is a six-time winner of the US Soccer Athlete of the Year award  She has competed in four FIFA cups. In 2011, Wambach was awarded the Bronze Boot and Silver Ball at the FIFA Women’s World Cup and she was awarded the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year–the first American woman to win that award since 2002. In 2011 Wambach was named the Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year and was awarded the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, the first individual soccer player ever–man or woman–to be granted that honor. She’s led the US team to the Gold in two Olympics.


This May she was on the Time magazine Time 100 list as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.


So–she’s huge.
Which made The Kiss huge.


In 2013 when she married longtime partner Huffman, she told the Associated Press, “I can’t speak for other people, but for me, I feel like gone are the days that you need to come out of a closet. I never felt like I was in a closet. I never did. I always felt comfortable with who I am and the decisions I made.”


But as many of us know all too well, coming out is difficult for many, despite the gains the LGBT movement has made in recent years toward equality.


Suicides among lesbian teens is on the riseHate crimes against lesbians are on the rise.


A particularly poignant example of why public figures like Wambach being out matters was evidenced last week. A young boy, photographed by Brandon Stanton, who hosts the Humans of New York blog, wrote: “I’m homosexual and I’m afraid about what my future will be and that people won’t like me.” The young teen was also afraid of what his parents might say.


The heartbreaking post–even in the wake of the SCOTUS marriage ruling and from America’s largest city with more lesbians and gay men than anywhere in the country, if not the world–illumines the need for lesbian and gay kids to see role models that make them feel included and supported.


The post garnered huge support with thousands of people offering their virtual hugs to the teen. Among them was America’s most famous lesbian, Ellen DeGeneres who said in her message, “Not only will people like you, they’ll love you. I just heard of you and I love you already.”


But it was the post from presidential contender Hillary Clinton which received the most notice, particularly as Republican candidates have been stating their opposition to the SCOTUS ruling and to legalizing any rights for lesbians and gay men on a near-daily basis.


The former Secretary of State, who famously used her role in that office to say at a UN conference in 2011 that “gay rights are human rights”, reached out to the unnamed boy.


Hillary Clinton said, “Prediction from a grown-up: Your future is going to be amazing. You will surprise yourself with what you’re capable of and the incredible things you go on to do. Find the people who love and believe in you–there will be lots of them.”


She signed her message with an “H,” indicating she, not a member of her staff, had written it.


So as we revel in the World Cup win, Carli Lloyd’s amazing goals and the entire women’s team’s incredible performance throughout the many competitions, we also have to remember The Kiss and how it resonated for all those kids sitting at home watching–maybe with their parents–and seeing a world-renowned player who is literally the best in world at what she does, kiss her wife for the cameras the way male sports figures have done for generations.


Carli Lloyd, (Credit: Mark J Rebilas)

It was a moment–another instance of how we make our lesbian presence known and felt in the world. Insignificant to some, perhaps. But huge for those of us for whom it mattered most.