Sports Illustrated copy chief comes out as non-binary: ‘It’s the freedom to be any gender you want to be’

Vic Parsons
·3-min read

Sports Illustrated editor Julie Kliegman has come out as non-binary, saying it’s “the freedom to be any gender you want to be”.

The magazine’s copy chief made the announcement on Twitter, posting a gif of Janet from The Good Place saying “I’m not a girl” with the caption: “Hey pals, I’m non-binary! She/her still great. Mostly wanted to join this GIF club.”

Julie Kliegman writes a lot about mental health and asexuality (she is asexual), and told Outsports this week that her doing so is rooted in a desire to ensure that other people have access to information that she didn’t.

“There’s a part of me that wants to write the things that I wish I had access to when I was Googling stuff about asexuality or about whatever given topic I’m writing about,” Kliegman said on the Outsports podcast, The Sports Kiki.

She added: “I mean, I wrote an article about how hard it is for asexual people to online date, because I was trying to online date. I still am, by the way.”

Kliegman also told Outsport that her road to understanding her gender was a slow one, but that in asking questions of herself she realised she wasn’t cis.

“I think once you think about that long enough, you’re like, ‘Oh wait, cisgender people don’t really spend that much time thinking about this today,’” Kliegman said. “It’s not that I always rejected the label of ‘woman,’ but I always knew in the back of my head that it didn’t perfectly fit me either.”

Being non-binary is “the freedom to be any gender you want to be”, she added. “I just think that’s so great that it’s such an expansive term.”

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Kliegman also described how watching Bojack Horseman – a character in the show came out as asexual in 2017 – and writing about asexuality led to her understanding that she was asexual.

“Over the course of months, this idea simmered within me. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah. That does really accurately describe a lot of my experiences,’” Kliegman said.

She also described what asexuality is, pointing out that it’s a spectrum and not every asexual person’s experience will be the same.

“Asexual people, it’s not that they lack a sex drive, but they aren’t sexually attracted to people, or they’re varying degrees of sexually attracted to people, but not in a way — I don’t want to say ‘typical person’ in this way — but a ‘typical person’ is,” Kliegman said. “But that doesn’t make them any less human.”

Sports Illustrated has featured two openly trans women to date. Last year, the magazine featured Valentina Sampaio, a Brazilian model who was the first trans woman to appear in the issue.

In March this year, actor and model Leyna Bloom made history as the first trans woman of colour to be featured in Sports Illustrated‘s swimsuit issue.