“It’s important to come out,” Rapinoe told ESPN. “Visibility is important.”
Before Sue Bird publicly came out as gay last summer during her 15th season with the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, she and her girlfriend, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, constantly had conversations about why coming out mattered, as the couple told ESPN on Thursday.
For years Bird was more shy about her private life than Rapinoe, the Seattle Reign forward she began dating in 2016. Rapinoe was outspoken, having traveled around the country telling rooms full of strangers about her sexuality as an ambassador for the LGBT advocacy group Athlete Ally.
It wasn’t that Bird was hiding anything, she said. All her friends and family knew.
“But that’s not the same as coming out,” Bird told ESPN’s Jemele Hill. “It really isn’t. Being around Megan, I learned that. And then 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.”
Now, nearly a year after Bird took that step, she and Rapinoe have become the first openly gay couple to appear on the cover of ESPN’s Body Issue, standing nude side-by-side as Bird spins a basketball on her middle finger and Rapinoe rests her foot on a soccer ball. It is one of 10 covers marking the Body Issue’s 10th anniversary.