At World Cup, U.S. Team’s Pride Is Felt by Others, Too

PARIS — Like many French followers on the Parc des Princes stadium on Friday evening, Marine Rome was heartbroken as her group spiraled out of the World Cup in a quarterfinal matchup in opposition to the United States.

But for her, a minimum of, there was some comfort.

Rome, 32, is the co-president of Les Dégommeuses, an novice soccer group in Paris primarily made up of lesbian and transgender gamers. For many soccer followers, Friday’s sport uncovered the hole in expertise that continues to be between the French and American groups. But to Rome and others in France’s L.G.B.T. group, the juxtaposition highlighted a distinct gulf: one in inclusion, in range.

In the American gamers, Rome noticed a strolling, working, kicking illustration of L.G.B.T. pleasure and acceptance — a form she and plenty of others stated was nonetheless missing in France.

“In France, with the idea of universalism and equality, when you’re a minority you’re supposed to be silent, because they say we’re all the same, even though we’re not,” Rome stated. “I think that’s the main difference with the U.S.”

After the game on Friday, American winger Megan Rapinoe was asked about playing during Pride Month, and on a weekend when many cities around the world were holding their annual Pride events.

“Go gays!” said Rapinoe, who scored two goals on Friday. “You can’t win a championship without gays on your team. It’s never been done before. That’s science right there.”

Rapinoe soon had everyone around her laughing.

“To be gay and fabulous during Pride Month and the World Cup is nice,” she said.

Then she smoothly transitioned back to answering questions about soccer.

The moment, in Rome’s view, embodied everything a French player could not do, and the reason she and many of the 20 members of Les Dégommeuses, a nickname that translates roughly as the Smashers, at the stadium on Friday were cheering for players on both teams.

The organization, created in 2012, has about 100 players and two primary aims: to create a safe space — at weekly practices and games in Paris — for people who might otherwise be excluded from French soccer culture, and to press for greater inclusivity in the country’s sports landscape.

In France, the problem can be deceptively acute. Rome cringed as she recalled a marketing campaign unveiled by the French soccer federation some years ago that reductively revolved around high heels, glitter and the color pink. (She said the team’s marketing promoting the team has improved significantly around this World Cup.)

She pointed to more subtle things, too. In December, Jess Fishlock, a Welsh midfielder playing at the time for the French club Olympique Lyonnais received one of Britain’s highest civilian honors for her services to women’s soccer and the L.G.B.T. community. But the club’s news release about the honor, Rome noted, stated only that the award had been for her commitment to “various causes.”

“In France, you can’t be yourself, you have to hide,” said Frédérique Gouy, 34, a civil engineer from Paris who came out four years ago and joined Les Dégommeuses shortly afterward. “It’s a big difference from the United States and many other teams at this World Cup. We are still at the beginning of the fight.”

Pichon, 43, who scored 81 goals in 12 years playing for France, said she experienced the situation in French soccer firsthand.

“You don’t dare to say that you are homosexual in the locker room because you fear the consequences on the image of your team, of your club, but also on yourself,” Pichon said. “You may well become a punching bag for other players. I know many people who refused to come out because they feared the consequences.”

Pichon saw something different in two stints playing professionally in the United States. She said the American approach to welcoming and integrating L.G.B.T. players into their women’s teams was “the approach we should work toward in France.” And she said she was amazed to see television commercials and marketing content in the United States that featured positive images of gay people.

Pichon did not broadcast her sexual orientation during her playing career. She said she was not desperate for anyone’s acceptance. But many say there are positive effects when professional athletes feel personally comfortable enough to express themselves that way.

Rome, for instance, recalled watching the French tennis player Amélie Mauresmo come out as gay 20 years ago. Rome was 12 and was having trouble articulating why she felt she was different than her peers.

“I realized, thanks to her, that I was not a monster, basically,” Rome said.

For now, cheering for the real Megan Rapinoe will have to do.

Constant Méheut contributed reporting.

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