Lesbians in sports, 2019: Megan Rapinoe rules, Stenie ejected for who she loves

Year in review: On the international scene, it was a big year for lesbian soccer/football star Megan Rapinoe, but in Cameroon lesbian star player Stenie was barred from playing because of her sexual orientation.

Victorious Megan Rapinoe (above), Stenie still training after her team ousted her (below). (Stenie's photo is courtesy of Thomson Reuters)
Above: Victorious Megan Rapinoe. Below: Stenie, ousted by her team but still training on her own. (Stenie’s photo is courtesy of Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Lesbian athletes can be celebrated or reviled, depending on whether they play in the West or in Africa. Just ask Megan Rapinoe and Stenie.

In 2019, Rapinoe helped lead the United States women’s national soccer team to victory in the World Cup. Sports Illustrated magazine named her its 2019 Sportsperson of the Year.

Meanwhile in Cameroon, because of public pressure and fear of lesbians, athlete Stenie (a pseudonym) was barred from playing on any football (soccer) club in the country.

She had played for the professional Intersport football club in the city of Yaoundé and the team paid her enough money to live on. That ended in late 2018.

She recalled what led up to her eviction from the club:

At first, it was really hard. I endured insults and discrimination. Team members called me a rug muncher. Others pejoratively called me “father.”

One night after a match, I barely escaped from two men who jumped me from the bushes on my way home. I was able to get out of that mess only because passersby heard my cries and intervened.

Then, on Friday, Nov. 23, after a match where I played well, the manager and my coach at Intersport told me that I wouldn’t be on the team any more. They said the club’s success was in jeopardy because of public pressure and anti-gay judgments about me.

“What did I do?” I asked. “How does my presence hurt the club?”

They did not answer me.

Now she lives alone, rejected by her family because of her sexual orientation.

With help from a supportive donor, she started a small business selling shoes but that business failed.

Now she is seeking a chance to prove herself to a football club outside Cameroon. She has enough money to get a passport if a women’s soccer/football team is willing to give her a tryout.

If you have contacts who could help put Stenie in touch with the people to whom she needs to prove her abilities, please write to [email protected] #LetSteniePlay

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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