Culture 

EXCLUSIVE: How Megan Rapinoe Chooses Joy as Resistance

Plus, a special look at her partnership with UNINTERRUPTED and Sue Bird.

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Born from an athlete’s sincere passion for bettering the lives of the LGBTQ+ community, UNINTERRUPTED has partnered with legendary basketball player Sue Bird and world-class soccer player and all-around superwoman Megan Rapinoe for its latest collaboration.

Doused in uber-saturated hues of ripe orange and soothing creams, the newest drop dubbed “Love Is: Revolutionary Joy” reimagines the traumatic narratives often associated with marginalized groups, opting to focus on the resilient exuberance of LBGTQ+ folks. UNINTERRUPTED boldly and necessarily goes beyond the surface, calling attention to the truly important issues and spreading awareness into the mainstream. The collection is comprised of Y2K-era bucket hats and ultra-soft crew neck T-shirts arriving in a bold creamsicle orange shade and a neutral cream. Joining the launch are airy soccer shorts and eye-catching socks. With prices from $20 to $110 USD, the collection is available on UNINTERRUPTED’s online store.

While the overwhelming onslaught of horrific laws attacking queer people, particularly those who are trans, is enough to give way to exhaustion, the fashion brand is determined to choose joy. The complete antithesis to half-hearted rainbow capitalism, UNINTERRUPTED believes access to housing and healthcare is imperative priorities for LGBTQ+ folks and understands that the month of June can be bittersweet for some, due to the still rampant lack of acceptance in wider and more localized communities. Dedicated to stamping out anti-homophobic bullying, the two-time Olympic champion cites the charge against young trans athletes is a result of pure power hoarding at the hands of conservative white supremacist patriarchy. As an elite sportswoman, Rapinoe is quick to point out that children are being compelled to commit suicide because older white politicians are obsessed with a game.

Continue reading for Hypebae‘s interview with Megan Rapinoe below.

How did your collaboration with UNINTERRUPTED come about and what led you to partner with this brand to tell your story?

The partnership started some time ago. UNINTERRUPTED is athlete-founded as the intention is to get our voices out there. The brand wanted to partner with me and Sue for Pride Month and we approached the project asking, “How can we talk about Pride in a way that is less about rainbows and stickers and more so about the history of the parades and festivals, in addition to what we need it to be now.” Given the horrible news cycle, we wanted to focus on the joyful aspects as well as the revolution and resistance in choosing joy. The very playful design and bright colors align with a summery aesthetic and are reminiscent of that dewy feeling you get after being with friends on a rooftop. We wanted the collection to embody that sense of carefree freedom.

Pride began as a riot against the police and was started by Black and immigrant trans women. We wanted to get back to the heart of it because it’s not just about ass-less chaps and Pride-like flags. It’s about resistance, healthcare and housing, as well as general safety. It’s important that we look at Pride as an all-year-round event. I think people, especially straight people and corporations tend to hop on the bandwagon and only celebrate during June, and it’s like, “What exactly are we celebrating?” Most of the year is really hard for some people. Allies should ask what they’re doing to show love and how they’re showing up for our trans community and kids who are being attacked right now.

“How can we talk about Pride in a way that is less about rainbows and stickers and more so about the history of the parades and festivals, in addition to what we need it to be now.”

We’ll be a little bit more hard-hitting, asking our allies or people who need to be our allies to support us all year round and not just come for this party where they get to play act being a gay ally like now if you want to be an ally, we need you here all the time.

With the volume of anti-LGTBQ+ bills, including the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and legislation affecting trans athletes, how important is it to you to use your platform to not only inspire others, but potentially impact change?

I think UNINTERRUPTED and I share the same ethos to leverage sports for good. Our society idolizes athletes, sometimes to our disadvantage, but we can use this platform to do good in the world and actually talk about things that matter. Women’s sports, in particular, are being weaponized against trans kids, which is ridiculous because as an elite athlete, I can say that sports are not the most important thing in the world. Especially as a female athlete, it’s frustrating because this seems to be the only time that people care about women’s sports is when they’re excluding others from playing. There was no prior concern about equal pay or racial justice. We’re trying to pull all of these threads together and use our platform to help protect these kids, as well as educate people around the country.

“It’s important that we look at Pride as an all-year-round event. Allies should ask what they’re doing to show love and how they’re showing up for our trans community and kids who are being attacked right now.”

One thing Republicans do well is to convey a repetitive and consistent message and in a transphobic and racist society, it’s easy for people to internalize that. Doing the educational work in our communities is important because the laws excluding young trans athletes aren’t really about sports. It’s all about hoarding power and upholding a system of white supremacist patriarchy that’s also homophobic, heteronormative, ableist and just awful, in and of itself. We have to learn how we can work to break that down. We’re getting back at the Republican establishment, which is very powerful, with people who I believe are just as powerful.

In thinking about educational work, have there been mentors or community figures that have helped you realize this along the way?

I didn’t really have gay mentors, but I did have parents who always affirmed me and my siblings. I was totally a tomboy growing up and had short hair. There were times I was mistaken as a boy and my mom was very quick to defend me, so that really just set me up to feel affirmed and confident in my identity, so that when I came out in college, it felt like a natural progression. My twin sister, who is also gay, had a bit of a tougher time, but I think that just goes back to the importance of having knowledge of the wealth of gay icons. It’s crucial to learn about Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera and understand where we come from. During the AIDS crisis, the community showed up for one another as so many of the nurses that were caring for a lot of the gay men were lesbians. Those are my mentors. Chase Strangio, who is an American lawyer and transgender rights activist, is one of UNINTERRUPTED’s chief mentors. He always gives as much time as he can when he’s not fighting the entire world and all of these bills to the ACLU.

“You’re beautiful, and you’re exactly the way that you were meant to be. We’re here with you and we’re fighting for and with you.”

I believe starting with inclusion is the best and first step, we can figure the rest out later. As I said, sports are not the most important thing in the world — by a long shot. It’s actually just a game and a made-up industry that doesn’t really affect the world that much, but we’re putting that over people’s lives, kids who are literally committing suicide because people are telling them that they’re sinful or wrong. To me, it’s just not sane whatsoever. It’s monstrous. Coming from someone who is an elite athlete, who has that experience, who is in the sort of 1% of people that actually make it, who has won multiple World Championships, multiple World Championships, I can tell you, it’s not that important. Sue and I both feel like we would both give it all up if it meant that trans kids could play sports and just be who they are. Our entire community could be safe, happy and healthy because we understand personally how important that is for us, as human beings to be able to just be ourselves and to have the relationship that we do and feel the love and joy.

What advice would you give to those who are struggling right now and may not be able to resist through joy due to being in unsafe spaces?

I think the first thing I would say is like you’re beautiful, just how you are, you’re perfect. You are not weird and not strange. You’re not anything other than exactly what you’re supposed to be. We’re here with you and we’re fighting for and with you. There are a lot of evil people that are sometimes the loudest, but we’re screaming as well. There are many people out there that want you to be happy and healthy.

To the people who are fighting against them, you’re a monster. I would encourage you to check your own humanity and to educate yourself and really sit with the fact that you’re putting sports over someone’s life. I think that’s just a monstrous thing. Nobody ever looks back in history and thinks, “Thank God, we excluded that group of people who are being oppressed.” It’s never going to sit well.

For those who are unsafe, whether it’s mental health or an unsafe environment — please just reach out. There are so many resources, whether it’s online or in school. Try to find them if you can and we’ll try to support as many as possible, but try to reach out and understand that there is a larger community of people out there that is rooting for you. It may be difficult to find in some of the areas in the country, but there are so many people with you, and there are resources out there for you. You’re beautiful and you’re exactly the way that you were meant to be.

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