Tag Archives: trans

I’m sorry, I fell for it too: Heineken fooled me. I now regret writing the “Pepsi, this is how it’s done” post

Last week I blogged about Heineken’s new ad ‘Worlds Apart’Pepsi, this is how it’s done. Heineken: Worlds Apart | #OpenYourWorld. At the time, I thought I was giving a fairly neutral opinion whilst swaying towards positive connotations towards the ad – I even suggested, like many others, that it was the antidote to Pepsi’s car-crash ad.
I want to sincerely apologise for my ignorance. As someone who is so outspoken against the immoral bullsh*t we all have to endure in this post-Trump hellhole, I have failed both you and me. In hindsight, and after reading more articles, I realised that I had fallen for the worst kind of marketing tactic. I’m embarrassed that someone who both works in advertising and is a human rights activist was able to have the wool pulled over my eyes – ethical consumption simply cannot exist in a marketed, profit-based environment no matter how many frills are added.

Aside from the blatant social change push as a tactic to sell beer, just like the Pepsi advert it is a reductive narrative that absolutely does not represent the way in which opposing opinions are resolved in real life. Furthermore, the narrative suggests that the opinions of the couples are on the same level, whereas misogyny, transphobia and climate change denial are entirely of a regressive ideology. I now see that these opinions placed alongside a progressive and moral ideology totally diminish the science and facts behind these important views. What our society struggles to understand is that there is a difference between having an opinion and believing something that is entirely morally wrong – denying climate change is wrong because climate change is real. What damages our society is the notion that social problems can be resolved if only people tolerate their oppression just a bit longer. That ideology is fundamentally everything I am against and the catalyst to my passionate drive for equality, yet I foolishly supported this tragic advert.

This ad doesn’t exist to solve the world’s problems, but to make you buy a product by causing you to associate whatever warm fuzzies it elicits in you with its particular brand of carbonated yeast water. Have you learned nothing from Mad Men? That this ad was deemed “good” by most people just means it does a better job than other ads of hiding that fact. – The Guardian

I also questioned my naivety surrounding the morality of Heineken regarding what they have done as a brand to support the social issues focused on in ‘Worlds Apart’ – do they support LGBT charities, climate change research or womens’ rights organisations? As someone who dedicates a lot of time deciding whether or not to spend my hard earned money on certain brands (particularly regarding animal cruelty and brands who fund that in China), I am disappointed in myself for not recognising that “Heineken is an amoral entity that treats human beings as expendable assets who exist purely to have their labor power exploited for the purposes of enriching its shareholders” (The Guardian). If I discovered that politically and socially, Heineken invested in, say, supporting the trans* community, I wouldn’t write this article. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, and thes people who feature as progressive and outspoken are merely used as puppets.

What gets me more than anything, and what makes me feel ashamed for believing this sh*t is the fact that the people being attacked did not retaliate. At no point did those offended confront the ignorant person, despite claiming to be outspoken and sure of their moral place in this world. Whenever I feel offended or concerned about someone’s moral compass, I do not hesitate – I refuse to tolerate their ignorance – I cannot validate a point of view that ignores fact.
I cannot believe for a moment that the Black woman wearing a t-shirt saying “Smash the Patriarchy” would sit in silence whilst listening to a white, cis man project his degenerative views. Finding common-ground is of course not out of the question, but to insinuate that bigotry can be laughed off with a beer and a splash of tolerance sums up exactly what is wrong with humanity. The irony here is that Heineken used social problems that has largely eschewed capitalism to structure an advert.

Originally, I admittedly found it bizarre and almost insulting that the denial of a scientific fact was placed amongst transphobia and sexism. Now, I find it even more infuriating that this advert essentially promotes misandry as just a point of view that can be ignored. Being offended by feminism and trans* people is impossible – what is the alternative opinion to being transgender? There isn’t one. Heineken have essentially given a bigot a platform to say “hey, I don’t like this but I’ll use the correct pronouns because you don’t have a deep voice and I can’t see your five o’clock shadow, so you’re pretty passable, and that makes me feel more comfortable”.
The facts are here: climate change is real, women are paid less and trans* murders are an epidemic. There is no opinion here. There is no opposing view.

Yes, the people with the regressive ideas are humans, and they should be treated as such. They should not, however, be given an equal platform upon which to spew their ignorance. The false equivalency itself is whitewashing. (Caitlin Bladt)

If you don’t respect Nazis, you shouldn’t respect people who fundamentally believe someone’s identity and personhood is wrong. They are the same ideologies, but for some reason we seem to brush that under the carpet. And a beer certainly will not change that.

Once more, I’m sorry, and I do not support the Heineken advert.

P.S. Please also note that all the “right wing” opinions are from white, cis men. Just saying.
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National Geographic: Gender Revolution

National Geographic will devote an entire January 2017 Special Issue to an exploration of gender, featuring cover star Avery Jackson (9-years-old). Avery first made her name earlier his year when Planting Peace painted a house they had bought across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound in Topeka (2013) in the LGBT and trans* flags, and declared Equality House a symbol of peace and positive change for the LGBT community. It was Avery (then 8 years-old) who came up with the idea for a trans house, and helped paint it:

I love the transgender flag—it’s beautiful and makes me smile. I’m happy that we will have a house painted like the flag to show that transgender people are beautiful and will make them smile.

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Now, trans voices like Avery’s are being heard more frequently, and her story is being told on 27th December 2016 alongside an in-depth look into gender from different perspectives. The special issue will address gender identity, sexuality, puberty, and the problems those who don’t confirm to traditional gender norms endure physically, mentally and socially. The issue is parallel to ‘Gender Revolution’, a two-hour documentary co-produced and hosted by Katie Couric, premiering on Nat Geo in early February.

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This special issue is being published at a really crucial time in history, as young trans* suicides have risen and transphobic abuse is the norm online. On top of a presidential committee next year who are all anti-LGBT, it’s important that influential media representatives like the National Geographic represent gender in a human, kind and inclusive way. Although the negative connotations surrounding the trans* community seem to be as strong as homophobia was 50 years ago, a lot of progress has been made, and that’s largely thanks to media outlets like the National Geographic, who allow gender-nonconforming and trans* folk to share their unique stories with the world.

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GLAAD: Trump Accountability Project

GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) is one of the many LGBT+ organisations I support, and am very fond of, not only because they are a non-governmental (and therefore non-profit) organisation, but also because of their purpose – GLAAD is a media monitoring organisation founded by LGBT people in the media. Their aim is to tackle tough LGBT issues and consequently create a narrative that leads to cultural change.

GLAAD has taken the open homophobic and transphobic statements made by republicans very seriously, and used this information to create ‘The Trump Accountability Project (TAP)’, “a resource for journalists, editors, and other news makers reporting on the Trump administration, which catalogues the anti-LGBTQ statements and actions of President-elect Donald Trump and those in his circle.”
The aim of TAP is to hold those on Trump’s team accountable for their hate speech, stemming from GLAAD’s original project ‘Commentator Accountability Project’ (CAP) which aims to bring anti-LGBT statements to life, putting information about anti-gay interviewees into the hands of newsrooms, journalists and editors. Similarly to this project, GLAAD aims to do the following with TAP:

…Use first-hand statements, video, and/or audio to document the animus displayed by people being appointed into positions of power in the U.S. government. GLAAD will update the following profiles with new statements that disparage LGBTQ people, women, Muslims, Immigrants, and many others. GLAAD will also share this information with reporters, journalists, producers, activists, and fellow organisations each time they make headlines anew.

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What a great project. It’s a shame how targeting works on social media, as Trump supporters probably would never see these types of articles and projects on their feeds (not that it would necessarily change their minds). The US election really opened my eyes to targeted ads and news feed items, especially on Facebook…
Now listen up. Organisations like GLAAD can’t exist without donations, so please reach into your privileged pockets and donate towards an amazing cause – love, acceptance and unity! Pretty please!

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The ‘T’ in ‘LGBT’: the trans* Community and Why They’ve Been Left Behind

Whilst I try to keep this blog focused on the creative world, it is impossible to ignore and not speak about another big passion of mine – campaigning and awareness. Even if you have no interest in such things, please continue reading, because you should take an interest.
This week marks anti-bullying week and transgender awareness week – two totally different topics being widely spoken about on social media, but more closely connected then ever before. Since the US election, my social media feeds have been filled with concerned LGBT folk and their allies showing support and defiance. The problem goes way beyond this – whilst I generally live in a liberal bubble, we are nowhere near being a prejudice-free society… not even close. Not as close as the average person thinks we are.

[you can get involved by donating to organisations like ‘Ditch the Label’]

Last night Channel 4 aired the first part of their docu-series ‘Kids on the Edge’ with ‘The Gender Clinic’, featuring 2 children and their families. The kids were both completely different, one being autistic and unsure about their gender (Matt/Matilda), the other being confidently ready to transition (Ashley), but both visited the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (a gender identity development service based in London) to explore their genders with their mothers. This kind of groundbreaking documentary has aired at a really important time – the doctors state that referrals increased form 40 to 1400 in just 1 year – and children who speak out about their gender concerns are becoming more and more frequent.
What concerns me (and the parents of trans* kids) are the thousands of people all over the world who criticise these documentaries, claiming that they’re “damaging” and “abusive”, which in turn has created an illogical, ill-educated hysteria by presuming facts about blockers (and other medical procedures available to trans* people) and the concept of gender itself. Hysteria is what created the social construct of gender in the first place… These outcries to “save the children” can only be due to a desperate lack of knowledge – something that Channel 4 has been trying to change for years. Recently, the BBC followed in their groundbreaking footsteps by releasing a CBBC series called ‘Just a Girl’, which follows Amy, a fictional 11-year-old girl:

Amy has a secret and she’s scared that it will come out at her new school. Follow her as she tries to make sense of the world and not lose her friends forever.

That synopsis from the CBBC website is pretty ‘face-palm’ itself, and could do with some less scary, “this child is damaged and her life could be ruined because she’s really a boy” vibes. I’m surprised they didn’t slip in the old “born in the wrong body” line.
Anyway, last month The Mail on Sunday sparked a huge backlash with its front page story using the unbearably offensive and bigoted phrase “sex change” (please don’t ever use that term) to describe how “parents are angry that the show…features a transgender storyline inappropriate for their children”. Tory MP Peter Bone also said the show is “completely inappropriate” and wanted to write to the BBC to demand they remove it.
Co-editor of the ‘Conservative Woman, Laura Perrins, also claimed that these shows “normalise, trivialise and glamourise” transgender issues (because she’s so in-touch with this topic) and even stated that it encourages children to change their gender. Whatever you do, do not allow children to be themselves, god forbid!

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A very poignant comment made by Perrins is that she believes the CBBC programme is an “unbelievable piece of propaganda targeted at children”… do you feel history repeating itself?In 1983 papers like The Mail influenced Section 28’s passing, consequently banning the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools, which in turn scared teachers out of discussing homophobia and therefore doing nothing about bullying. It wasn’t that long ago that the same tabloids mentioned above frequently linked gays with the spread of HIV and paedophilia – a notion that we now see as absurd and archaic. In 1986, Tories even distributed leaflets claiming that “You do not want your child to be educated to be a homosexual or lesbian”, and The Telegraph warned readers about “a deliberate attempt to molest the sexual education of children”. I cannot believe this all happened only a decade before I was born. This was shortly followed by outrage and campaigning, leading to the overall (I say that with a pinch of salt) positive portrayal of gays and lesbians on TV and in the media nowadays. We still have a long way to go, but Section 28 was repealed in 2003.
Now, it has become apparent that trans* folk have been left behind. The parallels between homophobia in journalism and transphobia in journalism is astonishing. LGBT charities and organisations were trashed and attacked, just like The Mail did on Mermaids when they publicly attacked the UK’s only charity for families with kids who are trans*:

Last week it emerged that Mermaids had been supporting a mother who was found to have caused her son ‘significant emotional harm’ by forcing him to live as a girl.
She had the boy removed from her care by a judge after he found there was ‘no independent or supportive evidence’ that the seven-year-old wanted to be a girl.
He said the boy, who now lives with his father, had been ‘pressed into a gender identification that had far more to do with his mother’s needs’ than his own.

Since then, activists (Fox Fisher accumulated over 8k signatures on change.org) have fought back as the ruling was so unjust, and the judge was entirely unacceptable in the use of outdated and inappropriate concepts of gender to justify removing a child from their mother, and demonising the mother consequently. This outcome would never happen now with a gay child, but probably would’ve happened 30 years ago. So why on earth haven’t we “moved with the times” for the trans* community?
Just like parents were accused of polluting gay kids’ minds, parents of trans* kids are facing the same backlash. What is so bizarre is that people out there genuinely believe these children are choosing to feel this way, which is something they certainly wouldn’t claim if they bothered to watch documentaries like ‘The Gender Clinic’.
One of the most upsetting scenes I’ve ever seen on a documentary about trans* kids is by Louis Theroux, which showed a very young (possibly 4-years-old) trans* girl who continuously tried to cut her penis off because she simply knew, undoubtedly, that her body was incorrectly correlating to the sex she was assigned to at birth. No parent (unless they are mentally unstable) would ever want to see their child in that state. Scientists claim that around 4 years of age is when we start to develop the concept of gender, and we are hearing more and more that children are speaking out and telling their parents that something isn’t right with how they feel about their gender.

Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids spoke about the CBBC show:

The writer for this series did a lot of work with Mermaids parents and young people to make sure that he represented the challenges that children and their families face. The horrific headline detracts from a wonderful series that has been well received as educational and empathic.
No parent would choose this path for their child. And teaching children about trans issues is important. Education is key to understanding every aspect of life. It’s not on mainstream television and only accessible through CBBC website, therefore it is not thrust upon those not wishing to see it.
I would like to see more education around trans issues across the board. Maybe then we will see less hatred and prejudice, and can begin to celebrate the fact that everyone is different.

[donate to ‘Mermaids’]

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Education is key. This is particularly critical at a time where suicide and murders of trans* folk are on the rise. This should not be happening, but simply not enough people care. Most people love a good gay pride parade, a cheeky night out to G.A.Y and aren’t shy to call out homophobia, but very few people speak out about transphobia. I don’t know why.
Is it a lack of empathy? A lack of knowledge? Is it fear of the unknown? Are people too busy to care about what doesn’t directly affect them?

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Another bizarre claim is that young children are being given irreversible drugs with little studies or tests. This is absolutely untrue – GRS (genital reconstruction surgery) is not offered to trans people below the age of 18 and puberty blockers only delay puberty so that kids have time to think about what they want. Instead of claiming that these “drugs” are dangerous, why don’t papers like The Mail write about suicide, bullying, self-harm and all the awful things trans* kids are subject to in a heteronormative, transphobic society? Why do people assume that young children are incapable of making emotional decisions about themselves?

I don’t have the answer to any of the questions – I don’t think anybody does. All we can do is open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to make those who don’t fit into gender norms feel authentic, comfortable, happy and loved. Change is now.

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Tinder: Introducing More Genders

Everyone is welcome on Tinder.
Introducing more genders on Tinder, an update allowing users to express their gender identity. Tinder asked transgender and GNC (Gender Non-Conforming) activists to share their dating experiences, on and off the app, to help shape the creation of this update.
Be vulnerable. Be open. Be honest.

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of dating apps – whilst I know lots of people who’ve started successful relationships and friendships by meeting through dating apps, the dating culture of the 21st century appears, to me, seems to be incredibly shallow and sexualised. Whilst the app has been a great way to meet your match, it has also become a haven of hate, abuse and even led to real-life attacks (e.g. the viral gay-bashing videos in Russia). However, I’m impressed with Tinder’s recent update – they have genuinely listened to their consumers (past and present) and have added loads of options for gender non-conforming app users. Whilst they previously had just ‘male’ and ‘female’, CEO Sean Rad realised that gender has a spectrum far greater than just two socially constructed categories.

Sean Rad (CEO of Tinder) said:

About six months ago, we really realised there was a big issue with harassment toward transgender people. Our immediate reaction was this is unacceptable we’re going to squash this. As we went on this journey, we started peeling back the orange and realised it was a complex issue.

After the uproar regarding users reporting (and therefore banning) trans* Tinder users on the app, Rad decided to seek help from a community of influencers, activists and people from organisations like GLAAD to make the app more inclusive and reflective of society today.

I approve!

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Airbnb: Post-Election Ad

What does it mean to accept?
To open your heart and home to a stranger, who looks different than you, thinks differently, has a completely foreign lifestyle, or a birthplace from another part of the globe?
Airbnb is asking everyone on our platform to accept our community commitment.
Which means discrimination on the part of any individual won’t be tolerated.
And that inclusivity is the only way forward.

In a short film, Airbnb (produced in-house) shows numerous faces from all different backgrounds as part of the Community Commitment campaign. Resonating the recent political tragedy that saw a bigot elected as the Leader of the “Free World”, Airbnb have made users sign this nondiscrimination pledge:

I agree to treat everyone in the Airbnb community—regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.

Fun Fact:
As a huge LGBT ally I instantly spotted Nya Cruz from FuseTV’s ‘Transcendent’ – a reality TV show/documentary series that follows the lives on trans* women trying to make it in showbiz, at a club called Asia SF. Interestingly, Nya recently shamed Uber for the highly offensive transphobic abuse she received by drivers during a $6 Uber ride. She bravely posted the e-mail sent to Uber on Instagram, shaming the drivers involved. Perhaps this is Nya’s “f*ck you” to Uber, and a not-so-subtly hint at how customers should be treated.

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Grayson Perry: Born Risky

All4 describes the series of shorts as Grayson Perry meeting “people who take great risks to be themselves“. Channel 4’s ‘Born Risky’ follows the story of Grayson himself and 3 others – transgender model Tschan; Geoff, a transvestite truck driver; and EJ, a trans* fashion historian. The shorts are very natural and don’t contain any invasive, pushy questions that a lot of interviewers tend to ask those who are gender diverse or trans*.

Grayson previously explored gender identity in a documentary for Channel 4 called ‘All Man’ in an investigation into the heteronormative, ultra-male society we live in. That series is a must watch if you’re interested in how we translate different types of masculinity in Britain. It is incredibly eye-opening.

Grayson explores his own gender in ‘Born Risky‘, which adds an interesting insight alongside the other interviewees:

I am very proud to be part of Born Risky – it was fascinating, fun and a privilege to meet and work with three such brave, tender souls. If just one viewer feels more confident enough to live the gender they feel driven to live then we would have done our job, but I’m sure these lovely films will do much better than that.

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Secret Deodorant: trans* support or token trans* person?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the rise of trans* awareness in advertising, and the thin line between jumping on a bandwagon and actually portraying authentic gender journeys.

Secret Deodorant explores the message “there’s no wrong way to be a woman” in their new #StressTest ad (by Wieden + Kennedy Portland) and the portrayal of different women in a public toilet. The women entering the toilets can be heard giggling and chatting amongst themselves, as we are presented with another woman hiding in the cubicle, nervously thinking about exiting the stall. It’s hard enough being a woman in a society where we feel constantly judged and persecuted for our appearance and actions, let alone a trans* woman in a heteronormative society.

Now, when I first started watching this, admittedly I cringed. I thought “oh god, here’s a token trans* woman!” but, since researching I’ve found a wonderful authenticity to the script. Whilst P&G deny any political ties to the message, Janine Miletic (brand director of North America Deodorants at P&G) states that:

This ad was inspired by transgender women and a real-life moment which is stressful and challenging. This is one of many stories about women’s stress we’re proud to share

I have to say, this spot perfectly captures the anxiety that a lot of transgender people face while having to use public restrooms, and what makes the ad even more authentic is that the very talented actor Karis Wilde is gender non-conforming (identifies as queer). Hoorah! No cis-gender actors playing gender-diverse roles! Clearly W+K Portland have listened to what is going on in the world, especially the struggle trans* and queer actors face with employment.

The portrayal of queer experiences within advertising and the media is really on the rise this year, which is particularly important for the trans* community when it comes to politics and laws. Whilst Janine Miletic confirms that:

This spot was not intended to make any political statement or to support or oppose any specific legislation. We’re nonpartisan and not affiliated with any political party. ‘Stress-Tested for Women’ builds on Secret’s rich history of supporting all women who show courage in redefining feminine strength.

It’s hard to ignore the connotations towards North Carolina’s HB2, which shook the world when it was announced that a vote was taken to block cities and counties from passing protections against LGBT discrimination in a bill that ended up having terrifying and violent implications. The new law no longer protects transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity.

At the end of the advert we can hear the women saying “great dress”, “it’s really cute”, which I have to admit put a little smile on my face! Welldone W+K!

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Advertising and the rise of Trans* awareness

Whilst it’s perhaps not ideal as a Londoner to be writing about gender identity statistics in the US, it is still important note that the number of trans-identifying adults in the United States has doubled in the last decade (now 1.4 million adults). It’s a shame that publicised trans* awareness doesn’t seem to have the same impact in the UK… no major Government or administrative surveys have collected data by including a question where trans people can choose to identify themselves. Publicly collected data on trans people is virtually non-existent! Understandably though, there is a larger base of A-list celebrities in the USA, including trans* celebs like Caitlyn Jenner (below) and Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black).

So, for now, the focus of this blog post will be about the impact of trans* awareness through advertising and marketing in the USA…

In August, Nike aired an ad for the Olympics featuring triathlete Chris Mosier (the first transgender athlete to make a U.S. men’s national team) which had millions of people from the entertainment, creative and advertising industries taking note. Since then, brands like H&M (featuring Caitlyn Jenner), YouTube and Bud Light, have either featured trans* stories/trans*-inclusive messaging in recent campaigns.

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Days after Nike’s 30-second spot, Clairol (Procter & Gamble) announced that trans* model Tracey Norman (who had worked for them previously in the 70s), would become the face of the Nice ‘n Easy ads once more. Grey (New York) were behind Clairol’s ad, and Beth Avellini (global group CD) states that “Advertising reflects society as a whole, and there’s been a slow acceptance that’s been happening in society.” I couldn’t agree more! However, there’s always a fear that marketers and creatives will use “the token trans* person” for buying power (which has also been expressed in the LGBT community as a whole), and the rise of trans*-inclusive publicity has brought into question whether these campaigns are for social benefit or brand benefit.

I have to say, the ads mentioned above do have a true sense of authenticity and passion. However, as a cis-gender woman I struggle to allow myself to actually have a strong opinion on this topic because it would never and could never affect me directly. It’s difficult to have 100% belief of genuine intentions when it comes to ads being created by hetero-normative marketers in a hetero-normative society. I have to agree with Chris Edwards (copywriter and author of the memoir, ‘Balls: It Takes Some to Get Some’) who states that “terminology is evolving… it is important for advertisers to do their research and work with advisors to make sure copy and tone resonate with the intended audience.”

 

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Andreja Pejic Is in Her Own Skin for the Very First Time

You won’t be seeing any more of Andrej Pejic, the androgynous male model who rose to fame in 2010 after Carine Roitfeld had him photographed in womenswear for Paris Vogue. An onslaught of editorials followed (including a shirtless Dossier Journal cover that was essentially banned by Barnes & Noble for fear their customers would think he was a naked woman), and he even walked as the beautiful bride in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Spring ’11 Couture show (below). But Andrej’s days on the runway are over. However, Andreja’s career is just getting started.

Earlier this year, Andreja underwent sexual reassignment surgery (SRS). She always knew she was a woman, but her body, or at least parts of it, didn’t match up. Yesterday, the model trekked from her current Williamsburg digs to LGBT advocacy group GLAAD’s Chelsea headquarters to speak, for the first time, about her transition. Donning a white crop top and embellished Ports 1961 skirt, Pejic, who was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina but was raised in Melbourne (hence her charming Aussie accent), looked as angelic as ever. “I feel good,” she told me before sitting down. It showed.

You can bet you’ll be seeing quite a bit of Andreja Pejic—she has a role in Sofia Coppola’s forthcoming rendition of The Little Mermaid, and plans for fashion week are already in the works. Here, the six-foot-one stunner (who, it should be noted, has cheekbones that could cut glass) opens up to Style.com about her SRS, the challenges of being a transgender model, and why, at long last, she’s “ready to face the world.”

 

I am so genuinely happy that Andreja has had the confidence and happiness to allow herself to speak publicly about a very personal journey. We are now once more presented with a mainstream public figure who can aid the journey of change into the way society views the trans* community.

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