model casil mcarthur talks trans rights at the united nations

The groundbreaking trans rights advocate is making the world a nicer place (and saving bees along the way).

by Hannah Ongley
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Sep 23 2017, 12:51am

"The bee died," Casil McArthur informs me, describing the sad fate of the insect he had just scooped up on a wad of cue cards and air-lifted off the courtyard of the United Nations Headquarters. Casil might be the first trans male supermodel, and he's definitely the first trans male supermodel to speak at the U.N., but he's also just a regular teenager with a massive heart. His eyes, still lined with yesterday's metallic pink make-up, have a look of genuine distress. His hair, bottle-black from the Elvis-inspired makeover he was given at Marc Jacobs's spring/summer 18 show last week, is playfully windswept.

Casil can't save everyone, but he is doing a damn fine job of making the world a nicer place as someone relatively new to the spotlight. After being photographed by legendary photographers Collier Schorr and Steven Meisel, he made his mark on New York Fashion Week as the breakout star of Marc's fall/winter 17 show, having just spent his 18th birthday (and Donald Trump's Inauguration) home in Colorado recovering from top surgery. Just a few months later, he's at the U.N. giving a lesson on gender equality as a new inductee to Kenneth Cole's Courageous Class, which celebrates individuals who have overcome challenges to become inspiring role models.

Understandably, Casil is still learning about the LGBTQ community at the same time as he's teaching others about acceptance. When we find some shade after the panel — Casil's flawless ivory skin looks even more vampiric with the black hair — he elaborates on his own educational journey.

"I'll be completely honest," he begins, though he seems incapable of being anything but. "When I was younger, I made the mistake of not accepting non-binary and agender people on the trans spectrum. I made a post on Facebook about it, and I really hurt a lot of my gender-non-binary friends." Casil was only around 15 at the time, and after moving to New York, eager to educate himself, started going to the LGBT center with his friend Apollo, and taking Gender X classes.

The classes teach you that all genders are part of the trans spectrum, he explains thoughtfully. "It sucks that [the lesson] had to come from a place of me being kicked in the ass about it, but now I can go out and say the right things and do the right things. Respecting someone's identity is so important. If someone comes up to you and says, 'I'm Yoda,' why not respect that and call them Yoda? We're all just humans trying to live our lives happily."

This learning curve made Casil a staunch advocate for gender fluidity, and gave him an idea: "I think everybody should be going to Gender X classes. The LGBTQ community should be a part of everyone's life." It's a valid point. "Humans live so fluidly. There is so much more about gender than being transgender or cisgender. It's a spectrum. The LGBTQ community is a rainbow for a reason." And, with a wicked smirk, "Everybody's a little bit gay."

Casil's Kenneth Cole classmates include labor activist Sara Ziff, education advocate Mari Malek, and Wildflower Boom founder Chloe Nørgaard, who shares Casil's passion for bees. (Her initiative is aimed at ensuring the survival of the essential pollinator by planting wildflowers in our concrete jungles.) Mari has chosen education as the key U.N. issue she wants to fight for, while Chloe mentions that love should be the overarching principle that guides us all.

"We need to love and heal the people around us," Casil agrees. "That's so important right now. When you feel uncomfortable, that means there is room for you to grow as a person. If you're feeling too comfortable in your life, I advise you to go out of your comfort zone and experience the world properly. Find uncomfortable love that will bring you comfort.

Does Casil have a utopian vision for what a loving world might look like? "I really want to get to the point where you can just step out of a cab and say, 'I love you sir, have a good day!'"

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