Joanna Lohman: Playing for Something Bigger

Joanna Lohman is a professional soccer player for the Washington Spirit in the NWSL. By all accounts, Lohman built her career through athletics. Without question soccer has been a monumental aspect of her life, playing throughout her childhood, collegiately at Penn State, as well as professionally and nationally. An instrumental member of every team she has been a part of through her play and leadership. Leadership that was recognized as she was chosen as a captain during her time at Penn State in addition to fulfilling the same role with the U-21 US National Team. Simply put, a willingness to lead and inspire is not something lost on Lohman.

As an athlete her mark is left on the field, her name and the impression she leaves, however, her impact goes well beyond anything that can be accomplished through sports. By all accounts, Lohman has become an outspoken member for women and the LGBQTI community. Leading the charge for equality, something she is extremely proud of,”I have helped others to feel more comfortable in their own skin,” Lohman expressed. “I am proud that I have made a positive impact on their lives and made their world a better place. I am proud that many feel safer as part of the LGBTQI community because I have stood up for the cause. I am proud that I have made people feel worthy, accepted, and loved because there is no gift greater than that.”

A proud and active member of the gay community, Lohman is apart of the new wave of openly gay athletes taking the sports world by storm. “I want to defy stereotypes. I want to be a pioneer so the world can see a more diverse view of humanity,” said Lohman. Since coming out at age 21 she explains how she has received an overall warm reception, especially from the women’s soccer community. This decision was about more than simply being honest and true in her skin. Coming out gave her the ability to stand up for what she believes in while embracing her own character. This is something often easier said than done as exemplified by the difficult decisions gay athletes face on whether to make their sexuality public.

The athletic and LGBQTI community do not always go hand in hand with one another, something Lohman is working increasingly on to change. Using the stage she is given as an athlete she is able to highlight issues that have been in the shadow for far too long. “The platform to impact another human being as a professional athlete is unparalleled. I want to use this platform to inspire and advocate for equality. I want to make every fan that attends a game feel like they belong to something special – the women’s soccer community – and that their contribution is valuable. Sport has the power to change the world and I want to be a part of this positive change and I will use the stage to consistently strive for betterment.”

In an effort to create this positive change, Lohman has begun and assisted in the goals of the United State Department of State Sports United Program and Go! Athletes. The mission is to create a way of educating and engaging LGBQTI athletes and their allies without barriers such as race, gender, and culture. Taking individuals that are often isolated and placing them among their peers is an empowering experience. Sports in this sense allow the athletes to focus on the task at hand, not bringing in distractions from the outside world. The opportunity is not lost on the participants either as she recalls that the young players are often inspired and motivated as they play for something greater than themselves. This passion for excellence is something these athletes and Lohman share in everything they do.

The impact of the destination is only as good as the ride it took to get there, a lesson she is reiterating into those she is working with. Lohman credits her parents as the instrumental figures in her life instilling in her the core values that continue to inspire her athletically and personally. “They instilled a work ethic that still drives me to this day,” she explained. “They always reinforced that practice was the key to excellence and through it, one could get better at anything and everything.” A practice that has stuck with her as she continues to her long and influential career as an athlete and activist. It is this mindset that wills her only further into continued longevity in both fields.

With this all being said what should people know about Joanna Lohman. Lohman keeps it frank, “I want people to know that I have overcome a lot of challenges in my career with a fearless determination. I want them to know that I stood for something. Something greater than myself. I want them to see the effort I have put forth to grow the game and connect with the incredible fans we have associated with it.” Perhaps most importantly she should be known for her effort, the effort she puts into her sports career each and every day. The effort she gives to each person she meets to impact their lives and improve the LGBQTI community that she is so proud of.  Joanna Lohman is resilience, courage, authenticity, and effort personified.

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