When Megan Rapinoe, two-time World Cup winner with the U.S. women’s national soccer team and outspoken advocate for equal pay and LGBTQ rights, spoke on Wednesday at TIME’s second annual Women of the Year gala in Los Angeles, she dedicated her place on this year’s list to the transgender community.
“I am only here because of them,” Rapinoe told the room, which included other honorees and notable guests. “We all know what’s going on in our country with the attempted erasure of trans people.”
Transgender rights in the U.S. are in a precarious place, with legislation proposed in many states that would roll back care and freedoms for transgender people. To date, about 300 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced at the state level throughout the country. In January, for example, Utah passed the first law banning gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth, effectively erasing the opportunity for young people to seek out hormone therapy and change their names and genders on their birth certificates.
Speaking out against the spate of anti-transgender legislation and increasing anti-transgender sentiment, Rapinoe urged people to look at what transgender people have created for the world: “a way to live a whole life and to be a whole person, whatever that may mean to you.”
Rapinoe pointed out the perspective she’s gained from the transgender people in her own life. “The way they refuse to live their life any other way than completely whole is so inspiring. I’m inspired by the invitation to be completely myself. They offer us a full view of what it means to be a human in the world,” she said. “A whole opportunity to be the crazy ass human beings that we are. That’s a great gift.”
Rapinoe acknowledged the challenges and pressures—”to shrink, to soften, to disappear”—that women have historically faced. “We’re required to hold so much all of the time. Either carry the world on your back or you’ll be left behind,” she said.
But she also lamented that women seeking more for themselves haven’t always been inclusive: “White women have left Black women—and everyone else—behind. Straight women leave queer women behind.”
“Let’s not be those kinds of people,” Rapinoe concluded. “Being a woman: make it expansive. Don’t ever leave anybody behind. … Let’s bring everyone in and figure the rest out from there.”
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