By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)

Megan Rapinoe is one of our generations greatest athlete’s, having made a name for herself for amazing athletic ability in soccer but also for her unapologetic and outspoken support for diversity, equity/equality, and inclusion for people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ people. She has helped lead the charge toward equal pay in women’s sports and LGBTQ+ rights, so upon named one of TIME’s Women of the Year, Rapinoe used her platform at the 2nd Annual Gala to speak up for trans people.

“I want to not only just dedicate this [to] but thank the trans community and just say that I am only here because of them,” she said. “I think we all know what’s going on in our country with really the attempted genocide, erasure of trans people in our country, and globally, but particularly in our country, and I think so often we say, ‘That’s not right,’ or ‘That’s not right to do that to trans people,’ but I think we need to look at it [in] a little bit different way and just look at what trans people have given us, [which] is just an opportunity to live a whole life and to be a whole person, whatever that may mean to you.”

She went on to acknowledge the pressure that women face and noted that progress hasn’t always been inclusive.

“White women have left Black women – and everyone else –behind. Straight women leave queer women behind,” she said. “Don’t ever leave anybody behind. Let’s bring everyone in and figure the rest out from there.”

Rapinoe, who has won two World Cups and two Olympic medals, also thanked her partner and fellow athlete, Sue Bird and shared that she has experienced much “expansion” and growth over the last years in part because of her trans friends and teammates.

“Just the perspective that I have and what I’ve been given by them, not just our support to them, but the way that they refuse to live their life any other way than completely whole, is so inspiring…,” she said. “They offer us a full view of what it means to be a human in the world.”

Other winners at this years’ event include Cate Blanchett, Ukrainian LGBTQ+ rights activist, Olena Shevchenko and Iranian Journalist, Masih Alinejad.

Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull via Wikimedia Commons