teddy quinlivan speaks out for transgender rights
"I knew I was a girl, and I knew that from a very young age, and through fashion I was able to transform into the woman I always felt I was inside.”
This article originally appeared in The Radical Issue, no. 351, Spring 2018.
What does it mean to be a model? i-D has always believed in the power of speaking out. Today, the voices of models are more vital than ever. Here, Cameron Russell, Adwoa Aboah, Dara Allen, Christy Turlington, Anja Rubik, Hanne Gaby Odiele, Teddy Quinlivan, Paloma Elsesser, Liya Kebede and Doutzen Kroes champion their passions, causes, fights and beliefs.
“When I was growing up, it’s not necessarily that I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, because I liked the way I looked and I had this amazing upbringing, a family that was great. It wasn’t until I started getting older that I began to realise that there were boundaries around gender. I wanted to wear princess dresses, and I wanted to play with barbies, and I wanted to play with girls. I was attracted to femininity. Growing up and being told my whole life that I had to be masculine to fit into this body that was completely based off of one organ that I never chose, was really challenging. I started to suppress it, but I would come home every day after school and go into my mum’s closet and put on her high heels. When she came home I would put everything back in its place and pretend like nothing was happening.
I knew I was a girl, and I knew that from a very young age, and through fashion I was able to transform into the woman I always felt I was inside. I transitioned when I was 16 years old. I couldn’t hide it anymore. It was killing me and I wanted to live. Then after I’d walked enough shows, and shot enough editorials and done some advertising, and had kind of created a name for myself -- a little bit at least -- I felt like I was able to come out and have an impact.
A big piece of what I wanted to say was, “You can be transgender... the person sitting next to you could be transgender. Your doctor could be transgender. That model on the cover of that magazine could be transgender. That girl walking that show could be transgender, and you had no idea, and it shouldn’t matter.
I think feminism has always been a dirty word to the general public. There's this negativity associated with women asking for equality. And that negativity has been associated with feminism because women have been told their whole lives that we don't deserve to be equal. Inequality in any way, shape, or form should be unacceptable because we're all human.
So for me, feminism has been an extremely powerful tool. I like the fact that people don't like it. I'm very proud of the fact that it's a dirty word. I'm proud of the fact that it makes people uncomfortable because it should be making people uncomfortable. Change is not comfortable. Change is not easy. Change is something that is hard and we have to fight for it. And we have to prove to people that our change is worthy and deserving. And that's a very difficult thing to do. And it's not about women asking politely to be equal anymore. It's not about transgender people asking to be equal anymore. We're done asking politely for these things. We are starting to demand respect now.”
Photography Inez & Vinoodh
Fashion director Alastair McKimm
Hair Christiaan. Make-up Kabuki at Kabuki Magic using M.A.C Cosmetics. Nail technician Daria Hardeman at Starworks using Deborah Lippmann. Lighting director Jodokus Driessen. Digital technician Brian Anderson. Photography assistance Joe Hume. Studio manager Marc Kroop. Styling assistance Maggie Foster, Desiree Adejde and Umi Jiang. Hair assistance Taku. Make-up assistance Yumi Kaizuka, Michael Chua and Satsuki Soma. Nail assistance Gladys Castillo. Production Tucker Bibilis at VLM Productions. Executive production Stephanie Bargas at VLM Productions. Production co-ordination Eva Harte at VLM Productions. Production assistance John Nadnazi and Michelle Murray. Casting director Samuel Ellis Scheinman for DMCASTING. Models Christy Turlington at BMC. Liya Kebede at IMG. Cameron Russell at The Lions. Doutzen Kroes, Anja Rubik and Adwoa Aboah at DNA. Teddy Quinlivan and Hanne Gaby at Women. Paloma Elsesser at Muse. Dara Allen at Heroes. These interviews have been condensed and edited.