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This Swedish soccer player was teased as a teen before finding love

Mara Åkesson found struggles and some loneliness as an LGBTQ athlete in Sweden, and she’s sharing her story to help others.

Mara Åkesson has played competitive soccer for much of her life.

When I was a young girl, I dated boys. That’s just what you did as a young girl. But when I was 13, I started to feel something different, like I wanted to be dating other girls instead, and one girl in particular.

My friend and I would hang out a lot, and I started to develop feelings for her, physical attraction and everything. But I never told her. There wasn’t any particular reason I never shared that with her.

At the time I thought it was normal, to have some kind of attraction to girls. I’m a human just like everyone else, so I figured my feelings were similar to others, and I was 110% sure that I thought girls were for me.

Five years later I came out on Twitter, and that’s when all the problems started to show up. Some people at school pushed me away, girls I played football with and against looked at me differently and I felt alone.

I didn’t know what to do with my life. All I did each day was come home from school or practice and sit in my room crying, asking myself if it’s worth living since I was bullied about being who I am.

On a daily basis I would get asked questions I either couldn’t answer or didn’t want to answer.

“Have you ever fantasized about someone on the team?”

“Who’s got the biggest boobs?”

“Who’s got the nicest booty?”

“Do you get horny taking a shower with the girls on your team?”

And the one that some of the guys would lay on me:

“It’s easier to have sex with a boy, so come on just have sex with me, I promise not to give you a child”

That last bit irritated me the most, I think, because it came from boys or even older men who simply wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

I started wondering if what I was feeling really was unique. I wondered if I was the only one, even though I knew I couldn’t be. I wondered where there were other people like me. I thought about quitting football.

As the harassment continued, I wondered if I should date boys to feel normal, like all the other people that I know. I wanted to be like my friends at school.

It was a hard time and I thought I’d never get through it. But I did. Somehow I found the strength and the courage to accept myself. I found a way to ignore all the hate and remind myself that I’m also human, and I have all the rights to love who I want no matter what people say.

Still, my dad can’t believe that I’m gay because of all those years of me trying to not be. He hasn’t hated me for it, he just doesn’t believe it. Yes, I did date some boys because I thought it might make me turn straight. Of course, it did not.

When I finally met one beautiful girl in particular, I felt for her more than I’d ever felt for any boy. We ended up dating for a while and that’s when I could finally tell myself, beyond any doubt, that I will eventually marry a woman.

I want to talk publicly about this now because no one should ever go through the same things I did. Loneliness is a difficult place to live. The pain, tears, sleepless nights. I hope that by sharing my story it will inspire others to be their true selves. I’m inspired to make a difference, and I’m so proud of being a lesbian athlete. Being out and being my true self with the world has helped my self-confidence grow tremendously.

Feeling proud about it is easier said than done, but I know that the more we fight against all the haters, we will continue the work of being accepted by others, but most of all accepted by ourselves.

Mara Åkesson, 21, lives in Sweden where she plays soccer. She has previously played in Division 1 for Alingsås FC. You can follow her on Twitter @marad1nh0, or on Twitter @iammaraakesson1ecic.