Sports Illustrated Under Fire for Transgender Model on Cover

Sports Illustrated Under Fire for Transgender Model on Cover

by Anna Skinner

Sports Illustrated is the most recent company to come under fire for partnering with a transgender model after it featured Grammy winner and singer-songwriter Kim Petras as one of four models on the cover of its 2023 Swimsuit Edition.

Conservatives have centered transgender people in their legislative crosshairs, with hundreds of anti-gender-affirming care bills proposed by legislators throughout the nation since the start of the year.

Companies have experienced backlash from partnering with transgender influencers, with conservatives speaking out against Bud Light’s partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in April, responding in violent outbursts such as lining up Bud Light cans and shooting at the beer cans with guns.

Most recently, a discussion on Twitter centered around Sports Illustrated for featuring Petras—half-submerged in a crystalline azure body of water and donned in a bejeweled gold bikini top—on the cover of one of its highly anticipated Swimsuit Edition magazines.

The unveiled cover elicited critical responses from both women and men, with several people condemning Sports Illustrated for its model choice.

“The 2023 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover model is a biological man with fake boobs. I really hope men are #Done with Sports Illustrated,” political scientist Scarlett Johnson tweeted.


“How would you like to be a sports illustrated supermodel and find out they didn’t choose you, but they chose a Trans instead to be on the cover of the Swimsuit Edition?” a self-proclaimed MAGA supporter tweeted with an image of the Sports Illustrated cover.

“The cover model of Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition 2023 is a man,” another person added.

The three other cover models are Megan Fox, Martha Stewart and Brooks Nader.

It isn’t the first time Sports Illustrated, which has been lauded for its inclusivity efforts, has featured a transgender model on the cover of its Swimsuit Edition magazine. In 2021, Leyna Bloom was pictured in an elegant white swimsuit with a plunging neckline.

Petras, a German native who performed a smashing performance of “Unholy” with fellow singer-songwriter Sam Smith after becoming the first transgender woman to win a Grammy Award—also to the dismay of conservatives—has been a name in the transgender community for nearly two decades, after starting hormone replacement therapy at age 12.

In 2009, Petras, then 16, was the youngest person in the world to undergo gender reassignment surgery when she had the procedure. Germany usually doesn’t permit such operations until age 18, so Petras had to convince psychiatrists and a court that she should have the surgery.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Petras, now 30, said posing as a cover model for the Swimsuit Edition was a “big dream come true” for her.

The cover model opportunity came just ahead of the June 23 release of her major-label debut album “Feed the Beast.”

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