Soccer player Megan Rapinoe and WNBA star Sue Bird just became the first openly gay couple to appear on the cover of ESPN’s iconic body issue.
“It’s important for people to come out. Visibility is important,” Rapinoe, 32, told ESPN’s Jemele Hill in an interview published Monday. “It’s important for there to be a first one on the cover [of the body issue], or whatever. Just in terms of the culture and society, someone has to do it.”
Rapinoe, a forward for the U.S. women’s national team, and Bird, a point guard for the Seattle Storm, made their relationship public last year. The two discussed just how honored they are to be the first openly gay couple featured in the body issue.
“I think neither of us really wants to just do things and be like, ‘We’re the gay couple,’” Rapinoe said. “But to have this really unique vehicle to actually do that, to celebrate who we are in our sport, but also the fact that we’ll be the first gay couple, is pretty special. It’s pretty amazing to think about, especially in the times we’re in. Just think of how far we’ve come, but also the current climate and defiance in the face of that. Not only are we female athletes, but we’re dating as well. It’s kind of badass.”
Bird, 37, added that she hopes that in the future, a gay couple featured in a magazine won’t be news and will simply be normal.
“I think having a gay couple on [the cover], hopefully it just becomes the norm. You want it to not be an issue. You want it to just be, ‘Oh, another couple is on there.’ You know, I think for us to be on it is the first step in that direction,” she said.
Rapinoe has been an outspoken advocate for equal pay, gender equality and LGBTQ rights. In the past, Bird said, she was much shyer about her private life than her partner. Her family and friends knew she was gay, but she never felt the need to declare her sexuality publicly.
“But that’s not the same as coming out. It really isn’t. Being around Megan, I learned that,” she said. ”After I came out, just seeing the reactions. Having people come up to me directly. I think there’s just something really powerful about that. For some who maybe didn’t know I was gay, I think it meant a lot, and it changes some people’s perception on what being gay is.”
Scroll below to see behind-the-scenes photos (some of which are NSFW) from ESPN’s body issue shoot.