The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue has celebrated the female body ever since its debut in 1964. And this year, in its 56th annual installment, the issue is making history by featuring the first out lesbian on its pages.
Professional soccer star Megan Rapinoe, a member of both the United States Women’s National Team and the Seattle Reign FC, posed on the beaches of St. Lucia. The striker was joined by fellow national team members Alex Morgan, Abby Dahlkemper and Crystal Dunn for the spread.
“I think it’s really quite a bold statement by Sports Illustrated to be honest because it has been seen as sort of this magazine only for heterosexual males,” Rapinoe, who helped Team USA win a gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics, told the magazine. “I think so often with gay females in sports, there’s this particular stereotype about it and there’s such a narrow view of what it means to be gay and be athletic.”
“I think our view is still way too narrow of gay people in general,” she added. “Stereotypes still very much persist and they are just such incomplete views of who we really are as people, so I think for that reason it’s really important to just continue to push those boundaries.”
This isn’t the first time Rapinoe has made history on the pages of a magazine. Last year, Rapinoe and her girlfriend, WNBA basketball star Sue Bird, became the first same-sex couple to be featured on the cover of ESPN's Body Issue. In the cover photo, the couple appears nude, with Rapinoe resting her foot on a soccer ball as Bird spins a basketball on two fingers.
Rapinoe is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, lending her voice to the social causes that resonate with her the most. In 2016, she knelt during the national anthem at a Seattle Reign FC game in solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, protesting racial inequality and police brutality.
"Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties,” she said at the time regarding her decision to kneel.
Of her history making debut in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, which is available on newsstands now, Rapinoe said she was interested in upending “the assumption that everyone is posing for men, which I’m very much not, and I think probably the majority of women aren’t.”
“I think women in general have been so limited and put into such tight boxes for so long,” she added, saying the idea “that everything in the sexy category is only done for men is just kind of archaic.”