Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue has unveiled its first ever transgender cover star, Leyna Bloom.
The model follows in the footsteps of model Valentina Sampaio, who was the first trans model to appear in the pages of the magazine last July. Bloom, who is black and Filipino, is also the first ever trans woman of color to be featured in the magazine.
Writing on Instagram, Bloom said the appearance “heals a lot of pain”. She wrote: “We deserve this moment; we have waited millions of years to show up as survivors and be seen as full humans filled with wonder.”
Bloom, who was part of New York’s ballroom scene, wrote: “This historical moment is important to #girlslikeus because it allows us to live and be seen.”
She added: “Many girls like us don’t have the chance to live our dreams, or to live long at all. I hope my cover empowers those, who are struggling to be seen, feel valued.”
Mere Abrams, co-founder of Urbody, the non-binary underwear company, said that they hope it will open doors for members of the trans community.
“I hope this sort of moment prompts other mainstream fashion brands to start paying attention to their responsibility in trans liberation and gender freedom,” Abrams said. “My long-term goal is for gender inclusivity to exist top to bottom and left to right in organisations, but I think that at first, we’ll see many first steps and one-off attempts that feel more surface level.”
Abrams said that the cover is much more than just a visual statement.
“[The] cover represents an important statement of trans inclusion at a moment when legislation and political movements are seeking to exclude transgender girls and women from cultural spaces that celebrate womanhood,” they said.
Bloom joins rapper Megan Thee Stallion and tennis player Naomi Osaka, who feature on three different covers of the Swimsuit Issue, themed “Opening eyes, speaking truths and changing minds”.