By Alicia Pryzsieniak, UCFB Sports Journalism Competition winner

To this day, us gay women still face a level of hatred and abuse as a result of the stigma that is related to women in sport, but the women’s football world is slowly diminishing this stigma, proving it is okay to be you.

Growing up I don’t recall knowing of any gay women playing sport, especially football, or any that had made their sexuality known; but as time has passed, gay female athletes are coming out in force. Over the past few years, women’s football stars have revealed their sexualities to the world and have given that support and encouragement for people going through the same situation.

Dr Stefan Lawrence, an expert in masculinity in sport, stated that women’s football in particular has a “different culture” to men’s, suggesting that there are “better levels of tolerance within the culture of the women’s game”. Female sport is moving away from the ‘traditional views’ and barriers have been broken down by trailblazers, opening the floodgates for women’s sports.

Manchester United Women's manager Casey Stoney spoke publicly about being gay for the first time in 2014.

This year’s Women’s World Cup featured 41 players or coaches who were openly gay or bisexual, proving that the acceptance levels in the women’s game is much more of a norm than that in the men’s. Stars such as Megan Rapinoe continue to be outspoken and fight for equality within both the football and the wider world. In 2014 former England captain and Manchester United Women’s coach, Casey Stoney, spoke publicly about being gay for the first time. Stoney stated: “I feel it’s really important for me to speak out as a gay player because there are so many people struggling who are gay.”

These are only a few of the hundreds of publicly out footballers who are changing the women’s football world greatly. Although the game appears more welcoming, there are undoubtedly still athletes who don’t feel comfortable to come out, with valid reasons. I know we still have so much more progress to be made, but I can see the way it is changing in the professional world and grassroots game.

Thanks to these role models, I am so excited for the future of sport.