There are a few athletic queer bodies on display in the latest ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue.
The annual special issue celebrates athletic builds with nude and semi-nude photographs and this year, they’ve included Olympian Adam Rippon and, in a first for the magazine, a queer couple: professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe and WNBA player Sue Bird.
Rippon shared the shot of his backside on Instagram, along with a caption.
“Getting to shoot ESPN’s Body Issue was amazing, but being one of their covers is so awesome, unreal, and honestly WTFFFF!” the Olympian, who loves his gym time, wrote.
Rippon told ESPN that doing the shoot made him feel “liberated.” He also put rumors of him wearing butt pads to rest.
“I have a shelf butt,” Rippon told the magazine. “When I was at the Olympics, one of my roommates — she is also a skater — said, ‘I know why people think [your butt] is fake. It looks like a shelf in your costume.’ In skating, we’re very lower-limb-dominant and it’s important to keep our trunk and upper bodies very lean, because if you’re lighter, you will jump higher, and if you’re thinner, you will spin faster. But it’s finally time to put all of those questions to rest. All of the doubters, all of the naysayers, they’ll finally have the proof they’ve been looking for!”
Bird shared a snap of her and Rapinoe together. In the photo, Bird holds a basketball while Rapinoe has her foot on a soccer ball.
In an interview with ESPN, Rapinoe said that being on the cover of the Body Issue was especially important for the couple at this moment in history.
“What better time than when we need to be celebrating things that are different about us and accepting them and trying to understand them better? It’s pretty incredible to be in this moment,” Rapinoe said.
Bird spoke specifically about the importance of her coming out for visibility.
“Prior to me coming out, these were conversations that Megan and I had all the time. Just, what it actually means. Why you have to do it. ‘Cause everybody in my life knows. It was not a surprise or shock. But that’s not the same as coming out. It really isn’t,” she said. “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. 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.”
ESPN has been inclusive of LGBTQ bodies before. In 2016, the magazine featured Chris Mosier, a trans athlete, as part of its repertoire of athletic builds.