'Go gays!': Why USA's LGBTQ World Cup stars are more important than ever

“Go gays!” said Megan Rapinoe following USA’s World Cup quarter-final victory over France. “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team - it’s never been done before, ever. That’s science, right there!”

She had been asked about whether June’s Pride month made her tournament success more personally significant. In four June appearances Rapinoe, who celebrates her 34th birthday on Friday, racked scored five goals — and landed herself in the crosshairs of Donald Trump’s itchy Twitter fingers. “I’m motivated by people who like me, who are fighting for the same things. I take more energy from that than from trying to prove anyone wrong. That’s draining on yourself. But for me, to be gay and fabulous, during Pride month at the World Cup, is nice.”

Rapinoe’s been publicly out since 2012, but is hardly the tournament’s only LGBTQ representative. Teammates Tierna Davidson, Adrianna Franch, Ashlyn Harris, and Ali Krieger are all out as gay or bisexual, as are dozens of players on other teams. The rise of so many out athletes coincides with a World Cup ratings bonanza, and for LGBTQ supporters in the US, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. While Team USA have managed to take on the world’s best soccer teams, its toughest opponent yet might be homophobia.

Last month, LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD published the findings of its fifth annual Accelerating Acceptance Index survey of US adults. GLAAD found that adults between the ages of 18 and 34, often taken for granted as LGBTQ supporters, have actually become less comfortable with LGBTQ people since 2016. In 2016, 24% of those polled said they would be uncomfortable to learn that a family member was LGBTQ; in the most recent results, that number shot up to 36%.

On 29 June, GLAAD CEO & President Sarah Kate Ellis addressed the results during a CNN interview, attributing the decline to hateful rhetoric and the anti-LGBTQ policies of the Trump administration. In an increasingly polarized political atmosphere, it’s certainly possible that people are adopting a more ‘us versus them’ mentality when it comes to just about everything. Read more via The Guardian