Photography by Paola Kudacki for ESPN the Magazine
Since the time when the Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner initially was photographed for ESPN the Magazine's sixth annual "Body Issue," her life has been in turmoil (she pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and underwent 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling before resuming play June 27). In a followup interview, she discussed her body, her relationship problems, and more.
On Her Arrest
"You know, you do something, you have to pay the price for it, and I understand that. I understand what I did was wrong. [The incident] was mutual; they call it "mutual combat." And that's what it was. But I wish I had walked away. No matter what it is, walk away from an altercation. You see it getting heated, you see it escalating ... walk away no matter what. That was my worst decision; I should've left. Because it never ends good. Domestic violence is never OK, no matter what the situation."
On Her Body:
"I'd describe myself as athletically lanky. I want to show people that. I'm comfortable in my body and I don't mind putting it on display. Honestly, I like how unique it is. My big arms, my bigger hands, these long legs-I love being different. If everybody was the same, it'd be a boring-ass world.
I'm sure people are going to have a lot of critical things to say [about these photos]. "Yo, she's a man!" But hey, that's my body and I look the way I look. People are either going to accept me for who I am or they're not. I don't know what people think I'm hiding. I've heard, "Oh, she's not a female, she's a male." I've been told, "Oh, she's tucking stuff." They thought I was tucking. I mean, [in the Body Issue] it's out there. Let me show that I embrace the flatness! I just want people to see somebody who embraces being naked, embraces everything about them being different."
On Gender Identity
"I got called a boy all the time. Going into the bathroom, I still get the shocked look, like, "Are you supposed to be in here?" But I'm so used to it now, I'm just like, "I'm a girl, I'm in the right bathroom." In China, it happens all the time! One time when I went into the bathroom there, a lady was so shocked that she was pushing me out; she was so hysterically shocked that I was in there. I couldn't do anything but laugh. I didn't even try to defend myself and tell her I was a girl. I ended up just going over to the men's room and went into one of the stalls. I've even had to do that in the States a couple of times.
"I don't like labels. But [gender roles] are instilled in you as a kid. I was told to pick which one I wanted to be-masculine or feminine. I'm like, well, I kind of want to be both, because that's who I am. I mean, sometimes I'm feminine, sometimes I'm emotional. And then sometimes-you see me on the court, and I'm hard-core, and then how I dress is masculine. If I put on something "girlie," I feel very uncomfortable. It feels like something I shouldn't be wearing. I wore a dress for my high school graduation and it sucked. My mom wanted me to wear a dress so bad. I forced a smile in a couple of photos for her, but I was the most absolute uncomfortable person.
"Coming out to my parents helped. I gave myself little steps I would do, and each time I got good feedback-or I didn't get any feedback, which was good, because nobody really cared. Just little steps. Like in ninth grade, I decided I'm just going to dress how I want to dress. And I was like, 'Man, this would've been so easy if I would've just did it earlier.' "
The issue, now online, will be available on newsstands on Friday, July 10. Check out behind the scenes photos of Griner's shoot below: