Leyna Bloom’s star turn in the 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was widely viewed as groundbreaking. Not only was Bloom one of three Black women featured on the cover last year, she’s also the first transgender woman of color to appear in the annual edition. The significance of the moment did not go unnoticed by media mogul Tyra Banks. “Bloom is leading not just a trans community, she's opening people's minds up to something new that deserves love,” said Banks, the three-time SI Swim cover star. “I think she's going to be this beacon that demands respect for the trans community.”
While Bloom’s cover appearance last year was a momentous step for the LGBTQ+ community, 2021 was also the deadliest year on record for transgender people, as violence against the transgender community hit an all-time high. Alas, progress has already been thwarted in 2022. The Don’t Say Gay bill now makes it illegal to teach children in state of Florida about gay and trans identities, and there has been a wave of bans working to restrict access to gender-affirming care across the country.
Today, March 31, is International Trans Day of Visibility, which is a good time to revisit Bloom’s interview with Banks about her efforts to push forward representation. (Insider tip: Watch the video until the end, when Bloom finds out that she has landed the cover of the magazine.)
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Bloom’s goal in appearing in the issue was to be “a symbol of knowledge and power.” “This magazine allows me to be a symbol today, tomorrow and forever,” she explained. “The mission right now and the mission with Sports Illustrated is to…invite people to think differently. So, for me, it's just to continue bringing all these different intersections of being, a Nigerian Filipino trans women on the south side of Chicago who is an activist, is a dancer, is a model. To bring all of those together and to show trans women to dream big, and to go after their dreams.”
“I was brought here to be a vessel of change,” Bloom said. “The more that we have people, like us, in the world that are having these conversations, that are daring to go out and to have the courage to talk about this, the more that we can see representation everywhere around the globe - that's when we really understand true love and the brotherhood and the sisterhood that we are all a part of.”
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