The athlete has also spoken out condemning the US government’s “monstrous” attack on trans youth

BY VAL ZELASCHI, IMAGE VIA CREATIVE COMMONS

Throughout her career, Rapinoe has been an outspoken advocate of LGBTQI rights. In an interview with TIME she said that “we need to start from inclusion”. “For a long time, I was the only player that was out,” she says, as she explains how she feels it is important to “set the right example” and “stay educated”.

The 36-year-old US National team captain, who was recently added to TIME’s most influential people of 2022, believes that we are framing the debate on trans inclusion in sports the wrong way. “People do not know very much about it,” she said. And added: “Frankly, I think what a lot of people know is versions of the right’s talking points because they’re very loud.”

This is not the first time Rapinoe has spoken up in support of trans rights – not only in sports. Earlier in March, Rapinoe and her future wife WNBA player Sue Bird announced their collaboration with sport brand Uninterrupted to raise funds for trans organisations, including the Layshia Claredon Foundation and Two Spirit Nation. “Our trans family is under attack, today and always. There is no neutral,” she wrote on Instagram. 

During Trans Visibility Week, the power couple talked about women’s sports once again with Raquel Willis and Chase Strangio. Bird said politicians in the US were playing on uneducated people’s fears, using women’s sports as a “vehicle” to restrict trans rights. 

In her interview with TIME, Rapinoe said that the argument on trans inclusion “has been put through the tiny lens of elite sports”. She explained how this is so limiting and ends up suggesting that there is no regulation, where in fact, regulations exist. She added: “And I think people also need to understand that sports is not the most important thing in life, right? Life is the most important thing in life.”

Rapinoe talked about trans youth and the US government’s continuous attacks on their rights. “They are committing suicide because they are being told that they’re gross and different and evil and sinful and they can’t play sports with their friends that they grew up with. Not to mention trying to take away health care. I think it’s monstrous.”

Rapinoe also said that there is no evidence to suggest that trans women are “taking everyone’s scholarships” or winning at every sport. “I’m sorry, it’s not happening. So we need to start from inclusion, period. As things arise, I have confidence that we can figure it out. But we can’t start at the opposite. That is cruel. And frankly, it’s just disgusting.” 

After suing the US Soccer Federation over equal pay and settling at $24 million earlier this year, Rapinoe believes that women’s sport has the potential to “leg up everyone”. The question she asks is: “How can we use sports to spur education and equality?”

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