Gucci, Versace e Fendi primavera/estate 18. Fotografia Mitchell Sams.

trans model teddy quinlivan shares a brave and empowering message

Last week, during NYFW spring/summer 18, US model Teddy Quinlivan posted a video with CNN in which she publicly revealed her transgender identity. Motivated by both personal and political reasons, here she opens up and speaks out about her journey.

by Teddy Quinlivan
25 September 2017, 9:49am

Gucci, Versace e Fendi primavera/estate 18. Fotografia Mitchell Sams.

I'm Teddy Quinlivan, I'm 23 years old, I'm female. I was raised by my parents in suburban Massachusetts where I went to a public school. I encountered a lot of discrimination and bullying at school. The place where I grew up lacked diversity, and so I was made an outcast to people who were perfectly comfortable living a "normal" cisgender straight life.

The more I was bullied and ostracised by my peers at school the more motivation I had to leave, and to prove all of the people who doubted my capabilities wrong. They thought they were breaking me down, but instead they fueled a fire inside me to create a better life for myself. I dreamed of a day when I could wear what I wanted and express myself the way I wanted without people constantly telling me I was wrong.

I always knew I was a woman, I never questioned it. Everyone called me male and used male pronouns like "he", but I felt like those labels were just like my name, given to me without a choice. Obviously, as I got older and started to become aware of gender norms I tried to do what I could to fulfill the male role, even though I knew it was wrong. I knew that expressing how I truly felt inside (female) could lead to more bullying, rejection from my family and potentially homelessness. I conformed to survive.

By the time I was in middle school I was introduced to make-up and a diversity in gender expression. After years of experimentation and battling with denial, one night I got into a fight with my mother about why I snuck out of the house so late at night. I told her I did it to avoid the bullying and violence I received while walking outside during the day. That night I told her I am a woman.

"I was always told gender was one thing or the other. I now know that gender is on a spectrum far more vast than I ever could have imagined."

Coming to terms with my trans identity means I have taken the steps to live authentically. I was born with certain physical traits that have afforded me privilege. Those traits have allowed me to present as female with little problems. My body is narrow, my voice isn't too low and my face is feminine. I've been lucky to have a level of comfort with my appearance, but my discomfort is with the reproductive part of my anatomy that is not correct. Gender confirmation surgery would allow me to address this incongruence, but my work schedule has prevented me from taking that step. In this limbo, I've had to come to terms with my body in a sense, but it's not easy. I was always told gender was one thing or the other. I now know that gender is on a spectrum far more vast than I ever could have imagined.

Last week I made a video in which I came out as trans. Under the previous political administration, people like me were able to make huge progress, but then the new administration swiftly changed course and took cruel actions that have put trans people in harm's way. I felt an urgent responsibility to my own people to live openly and share with the world that trans individuals are contributing members of society who deserve the same respect as cisgender individuals. There is nothing wrong with being transgender. I'm proud of who I am.

The reaction has been absolutely amazing! I'm truly blessed that so many people watched it, and even learnt something or felt inspired. I've received thousands of messages and comments from people I personally admire and who I've never met before. It reminds me how important this really is.

Modelling was always a far-fetched fantasy for me, akin to being a rock star. I was scouted in high school and worked locally as a model until I graduated from high school and moved to Paris. I started working in the showrooms of designers and gradually worked my way up to the level I am today. But it took a lot of hard work. With strength and resilience I persisted. I knew if I loved myself and felt beautiful the clients and agencies would see it too. Through modelling I've been able to share who I really am.

"I knew if I loved myself and felt beautiful the clients and agencies would see it too. Through modelling I've been able to share who I really am."

The fashion industry is one of the most powerful industries that can affect social change. It decides what's tasteful, what's cool, what's worth caring about. It does this through advertising, magazine covers, TV commercials, etc... Who gets the cover of Vogue is important. It's telling the world: "This person is relevant, give them attention." Can you imagine how powerful it would be if they gave far more advertising space and covers to people like Elizabeth Warren, Wendy Davis, Laverne Cox and other progressive change makers?! That said, we need to ensure that trans people don't just become another trend to exploit. It's a fine line, though; brands need to celebrate trans people in an appropriate and authentic way. It's also important for trans models to be mindful of the people they choose to work with.

Trans people are becoming more and more visible. The internet plays a huge role in connecting our community and helping people to educate themselves. We are slowly becoming liberated from the societal pressures to conform to what others deem as normal. That's why I am joining others with a platform in standing up and sharing our humanity.

Moving forwards, I hope to gain a deeper level of understanding of my community and what we are capable of achieving, and to open the eyes of ignorant people and teach them acceptance. Ultimately, I would love to see a world where people can express themselves the way they feel most comfortable without violence and ridicule. A perfect world is an empathetic, educated, free world.

If I could send a message to all the trans kids out there, it would be that there is no single meaning for "normal". This is a word you have to define for yourself. You are not alone in this struggle. Stand up for yourself and fight for your freedom. Prove everyone wrong! And most importantly LOVE yourself. This is the hardest thing to do, but loving yourself no matter what, will set you free

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