By Damian Grabiec
Transgender people are enjoying increased visibility on the catwalk as designers and photographers respond to a growing demand for gender-bending models who challenge the old distinctions between male and female.
“Over the last decade or so I have most definitely noticed an increase in interest in transgender models in fashion photography” says PR and event management professional and transgender model Amanda Dee. “About 15 years ago we were looked upon as some freaks of nature, but today the photographers are more ready to accept us.”
Only last month, bearded transgender model and Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst shocked the fashion world by modelling women’s lingerie alongside a pregnant model in a series of shots taken by top photographer and designer Karl Lagerfeld.
And just this week, transgender model Andreja Pejic launched a kickstarter campaign to fund a film about her life. Pejic caused a sensation last year when, still living as a man, she became the first male model to appear on the cover of Elle magazine. She previously shook up the Dutch fashion world when she modelled a push-up bra in a poster advert for fashion store Hema.
According to Trans Media Watch chair Jennie Kermode, transgender models are appealing to an increasingly wide and mainstream audience.
“A few years ago, trans models were generally spoken of with derision, or people expressed shock that they could look attractive,” she says. “Now we find that heterosexual men are increasingly willing to be open about being attracted to trans women.”
The high visibility of some of these increasingly daring and successful models is having an impact beyond the fashion world.
“There is still some loud hostility toward obviously ambiguous models like Conchita Wurst but even in that case we see a lot of women describe them as beautiful, and some men adding their voices to this,” adds Kermode. “This is really helping to create a space for gender variant people to live openly within society. In addition, it’s raising awareness of the fact that not everybody wants to live in a clearly defined male or female role.”