Glamorous transgender models: Trans role models? Yes. Trans activists? You betcha!

andrej pejic andrejaLEXIE CANNES STATE OF TRANS — In the recent past, society never gave trans people much in the way of gifts — we were mocked and ridiculed in real life, in the media and especially, in the entertainment industry. Jerry Springer and RuPaul represented us in pop culture.

That has changed — legislation made most anti-trans biases a crime, education opened doors and awareness put Laverne Cox on the cover of Time. The last three years alone has been nothing short of amazing for trans people.

These positive changes aren’t just on the surface — the trans perspective in popular culture and entertainment has changed — Positive trans characters? Check. Emmy nominations? Check. Beauty pageants? Check. Mixed martial arts? Check. Glamorous fashion models? Check.

Yes, I’ll concede that there are people (trans or otherwise) that find some of these things a bit, well, shallow. But guess what — these things tend to draw in the kind of positive PR on us that we couldn’t possibly buy. Besides, popular culture changes society far quicker than the legislative process. Jerry Springer? Who is that? RuPaul? On his way out.

Those who argue trans people at the ‘shallow end of the pool’ ought not be trans role models or activists are looking at a gift horse in the mouth.  Glamor photos of trans people on the cover of glamorous publications do make them trans role models and activists — even if they do nothing else aside from posing for the photo. They inspire many who in turn may become activists themselves. The goodwill they generate is priceless.

We’re not in a position of strength where we can bicker about trans role model qualifications. Let’s leave hair-splitting to lawyers taking depositions and just enjoy this good fortune that could end in 2016. But that’s another article.


I wrote about how I came around to looking at the ‘shallow end of the pool’ in a different way for The Huffington Post:

Trans beauty contestant Jenna Talackova:

Model Andreja Pejic:

Actress Laverne Cox:

MMA athlete Fallon Fox:

andrej pejic andreja

Watch LEXIE CANNES right now: Or get the DVD:   

LEXIE CANNES STATE OF TRANS is associated with Wipe Out Transphobia:

Read Lexie Cannes in The Huffington Post:


Categories: Transgender, Transsexual, Trans

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. It’s not easy to get excited about the objectification of women.

  2. Reblogged this on Pasupatidasi's Blog and commented:
    in addition to a nice reminder of why we are lucky and not all at the same time…not lucky because we women live in a world wherein we are fetishised and lucky because the same fetishism allows for high profile awareness of transgender women.

    altho i hate beauty contests of any kind, and don’t ascribe to an ideal of exterior beauty to define myself or any other woman, trans or cis, i can’t deny the fact of benefit from contemporary icons: whether models, singers/songwriters, directors or members of govt…each time a transgender person is considered ‘newsworthy’ because they are doing whatever they do whilst being trans, it is a bittersweetness.

    i’ll take our victories with a grain of salt, but still…when a wave rises up from the ocean near the shore, it’s a good thing that it is seen.

    enjoy lexie cannes’ movie too….the link is at the bottom of her article

  3. Great article. We are a vast ocean of highly intelligent people. Those who have been involved in professional and military career, have done so in an exemplary way to all onlookers of us. And that is an accomplishment. They begin to see our good sides rather then their perceived bad side of who we are.
    Those who are still against us; or harbor lies about us; or harm us in any way; make a great examples of what an asshole is and does.

  4. I think there’s a difference between celebrating the women who did this shoot (Good on them! What they’re doing is great!), and trumpeting them as “The Leaders of the Revolution”, as the photo shoot did. Yes, this *is* a *form* of activism, and it should be celebrated. However, these women were chosen for their beauty, not the quantity and quality of their activism. To say that these are the “leaders” of our community because of how they *look* is to say that what is valuable to us is beauty, passing, to look so good that, “nobody can tell you’re trans”.

    I think the leaders of our community are our leaders because of what they *do*, and *say*. Yes, for some of them, like Laverne Cox, Geena Rocero, and Janet Mock, they get a platform to do and say those things in part because they are beautiful, and we need to understand that, but it’s not their beauty that defines their leadership, but the quality of their minds and the uses to which they put those minds. I am coming to understand the work that some of the others in the shoot have done as well, and want to honor that, but I think the Advocate article was right to push back on the theme that beauty = leadership.

  5. We’ve also gotten stories of others like the teacher Karen Adell Scott and the ex-Navy SEAL Kristen Beck!

  6. Whatever help we get is certainly help we need. Those of us with “passing privilege” (either we had lots of money or were genetically gifted or our puberty was stopped chemically) are probably the best examples for the “average folks” to see and hear, AT THIS TIME. But a lot of the greatest political and social victories are won by those who are out and visible, proudly, and discernibly trans.

    And until “average folks” can see beyond perfection and consensual beauty, it remains just average “media” victories for us because this does not encompass ALL of us.

    We have a very macho, yang culture. In fact, a whole world out of balance.

    I watch with some personal gratification and approval when I see teenagers and young adults express themselves through their wardrobes and their behaviors. I see gender boundaries easing, and the social acceptance of femininity in some males, accompanied by more assertive behavior in females. I see it in their modes of dress. Of course, Seattle is a progressive city, but I hope it is happening in other places to some degree.

    I envision a world where yin and yang have been balanced and are truly equal parts of the whole nature of humans, and that humans realize that they themselves are biologic parts of a complex and eventually stable ecosystem. The Patriarchal/Dominance culture of “Dominion over Nature” is opposed to equality and inclusion, parity and social justice. It must be, because its very existence is owed to its continued propagation through religions, politics, and corporate advertising.

    Separate yin from yang and you separate parts of yourself.

    Give little boy children toy guns and they will grow up hungering to use real ones. Bully the boys into acting hyper-masculine and they will eventually be ready for any war of any scale for any duration at any time. And women will be as active players in that system. They will produce the children who will die in senseless wars or wither at meaningless jobs, eating food-like substances, drinking contaminated water, believing in out-dated and obsolete assumptions.

    Those who cling to the old ways will have a very hard road ahead. Those who accept other humans based on their character rather than their appearance or belief-systems or sexual identity or orientation will be able to see and feel life. We will not be TOLERATED. We will be CELEBRATED.

    Those of us who judge others, who speak negatively of other “kinds” of humans, will reap no benefit from the coming tide of change. They will resent it and actively try to prevent it. I pray they will fail.

    Any good news for us is just plain good news. But we have a world to change. We hold a part of its future in our hands, and our behaviors, words and very existence are all of extreme importance.

  7. Look, I agree this is a good thing, I admire the women on the cover that I recognize, BUT I have a real problem with watering down the terms “role model” and more importantly “activist.” Various definitions of activist are “a person who campaigns for some kind of social change” or “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause” among others. By the sheer act of being visible in a positive sense, I admit that these women in the photograph are providing a positive example of a segment of the trans* community (trans* men clearly absent) but what are they DOING? Where is the “active” in activism?

    There are lots, LOTS of trans* people actively fighting for trans* rights or providing needed services for their sisters and brothers. THEY are the true activists and while I am sure that they are happy to keep “doing their thing” in anonymity, let’s not disrespect them and their work by calling every pretty face an “activist.”

  8. Thanks for the comments every one!

    There’s no doubt that the grass roots activists are the ones behind the real changes that we enjoy today, but the huge ‘bang for the buck’ bonus that the others provide cannot be ignored.

    I, too, didn’t like the objectification of women (in society as a whole) until I realized the trade off for trans people was fewer trans deaths and more trans rights. It was a no brainer flip flop for me.

    • I definitely understand your point. To our current, immature society, beauty pageants are a positive thing so it helps the general view of trans women become more positive. I would argue though, that it is precisely the same culture of objectifying women that is at the root of so many murders and crimes against trans women.
      Hopefully this will be considered just a stepping stone to greater acceptance. I hope that eventually all women will work together towards a culture where women are not judged mostly by their appearance or be viewed as mere play things for men.

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