Chinese footballer Li Ying has come out and introduced her girlfriend to the world in a tender post.
Li Ying, who plays forward for the Chinese women’s national football team, revealed that she is queer on Chinese social media platform Weibo last week.
The acclaimed footballer shared a photo of herself and girlfriend Chen Leilei, a Chinese influencer, as they celebrated their one-year anniversary together.
“You are the source and objective of all of my tenderness,” she wrote, according to Chinese media outlets.
Ying’s momentous coming out makes her China’s first high-profile openly LGBT+ sporting figure – and football fans were quick to share their joy.
“Respect and blessings to you two!” one Weibo user commented, according to SupChina, while another wrote that Ying and her girlfriend “look great together”.
Li Ying deleted her coming out post shortly after sharing it on Weibo
Sadly, Ying didn’t just receive supportive messages – she was also inundated with homophobic comments from people lambasting her for daring to live openly.
Ying’s post quickly went viral, amassing an enormous response – but she deleted it shortly afterwards in the face of relentless abuse.
Social media users were quick to compare the treatment of Ying to that of Megan Rapinoe, the American soccer player who came out as a lesbian in 2012. While Ying faced cruel comments and has reportedly been sidelined by her team in recent months, Rapinoe went from strength to strength.
Ying’s and Rapinoe’s experiences are vastly different, but that isn’t too surprising – LGBT+ rights continue to lag far behind in China, and many queer people in the country still don’t feel comfortable coming out or expressing themselves.
A 2016 survey from the United Nations Development Program found that 95 per cent of Chinese LGBT+ people stay in the closet for fear of discrimination and violence.
The country has repeatedly refused to recognise same-sex partnerships, while anti-discrimination laws continue to fall far behind other nations.