Megan Rapinoe Talks Gender Identity, Representation and Inclusion

The retired athlete and SI Swimsuit legend is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights.
Megan Rapinoe was photographed by Yu Tsai in Hollywood, Fla.
Megan Rapinoe was photographed by Yu Tsai in Hollywood, Fla. / Yu Tsau/Sports Illustrated

Megan Rapinoe may be best known for her status as a two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist, but the retired athlete is also an SI Swimsuit legend. The former OL Reign winger first posed for the magazine in St. Lucia in 2019, and followed up that beachfront appearance by participating in this year’s 60th anniversary photo shoot in Hollywood, Fla., alongside 26 other brand icons.

Outspoken about LGBTQ rights and an advocate for women’s rights, Rapinoe serves as powerful representation for young people in sports, the queer community and more. During the legends photo shoot earlier this spring, Rapinoe noted that she continuously has fans—including kids and parents alike—thank her for her visibility as a gay woman. She strongly believes that self-expression should be celebrated and helps to create a better world.

“If people want to express themselves in a different way, you can. People express themselves all the time in a myriad of ways,” she said of gender identity. “ ... It’s all self-expression, the way we do our hair, the way we talk, if we wear jewlery, if we wear a watch, if we don’t. I hope that kids just keep leaning into that and finding themselves and continuing really to carve out a more inclusive, expansive future for all of us.”

She also reflected fondly upon her SI Swimsuit feature that took place in the Caribbean five years ago, as it served as an opportunity for Rapinoe to represent a strong, athletic figure.

“It’s not really about seeing women in bathing suits, it’s about seeing the power that’s in them,” she stated of the SI Swimsuit Issue. “So to be able to pick up that magazine and see just such a myriad of beautiful, powerful, strong women was always inspiring to me. So to be one of those, to show off an athletic body, the representation part, and being able to show up in that particular space as a gay woman was really important for me.”

Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe was photographed by Yu Tsai in Hollywood, Fla. Suit by Alice + Olivia. Shoes by Fendi. Jewelry by Melinda Maria and Charlie Lapson. / Yu Tsai/Sports Illustrated

Rapinoe, who was named to TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list in 2020 and became one of the publication’s Women of the Year in ’23, consistently uses her platform to inspire while creating a safe space for individuals from all walks of life to thrive together.

“Whether it’s talking about women in sports or talking about LGBTQ rights or talking about racial justice, I want people to understand our connectedness and not how different we are,” Rapinoe said. “So I think for me, the thing I always try to do is to pull in all of these threads so we can understand our shared humanity. And I think the more we do that, it doesn’t take away from anything or anyone else, it actually is expansive and provides more space for everyone.”

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Cara O’Bleness


Cara is a trending news writer/editor for Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. A passionate writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience in print and online media, she loves storytelling and believes that words have the power to change the world. Prior to joining the team, Cara worked as a writer and editor across a number of content verticals, including food, lifestyle, health and wellness, and small business and entrepreneurship. In her free time, Cara loves reading, spending time with her family and making her way through Michigan’s many microbreweries. She is a graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism.