April 2015: Andreja Pejic signs contract as the face of Make Up For Ever, Rye Silverman signs modeling deal with Modcloth
June 2015: Mercedes Williamson was murdered in George County, Mississippi in suspected hate crime
August 2015: Nef and Valentijn de Hingh star in campaign for & Other Stories. The campaign featured a full transgender staff including photographer Amos Mac, stylist Love Bailey, and makeup artist Nina Poon.
August 2015: Tamara Dominguez died after being run over by an SUV multiple times in Kansas, Missouri. Keisha Jenkins of North Philadelphia was beaten then shot by a group of five to six men. Amber Monroe was shot in Detroit, Michigan. It was her third time being shot but her fear of the police kept her from reporting previous incidents.
November 2015: Lea T is announced as the face of Redken
January 2016: Jasmine Sierra of Bakersfield, California was found dead in her apartment with signs of trauma and foul play
March 2016: Caitlyn Jenner takes part in the H&M Sport “For Every Victory” campaign
April 2016: Shante Thompson of Houston, Texas and a male friend were shot and killed after being swarmed by a group of eight people on the side of a Midtown roadway.
May 2016: Hari Nef stars in Mansur Gavriel campaign
June 2016: Goddess Diamond of New Orleans was set on fire in her car after dying from blunt force trauma
August 2016: Nike features Team USA’s first openly transgender athlete transgender model in inspiring ad
While trans visibility is on the rise, so is the rampant violence against the community. Transphobic violence is an all out epidemic, but is the fashion industry’s acceptance making a difference? Well, yes and no.
One can’t deny visibility is crucial to any cause. Without bringing eyes and attention to the issue, awareness is reduced, and the effects of these tragedies can only be felt among those with close ties to the community. But as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
We can’t let ignorance take center stage, nor can we allow comments like, “Oh that’s not a thing anymore” and “people don’t do that in our city” gain momentum.
Do not be fooled. This is a global issue and not a “gay thing.”
Fashion brands should absolutely use their power of influence to celebrate transgender models, athletes, and other talented individuals. This is the responsibility of every business in every industry, to use their capabilities to make a difference and bring important issues to the forefront of their respective audiences. The fashion industry is often accused of bandwagoning and adding a little diversity for positive press, but I believe positive outcomes can still be the result of less than honorable intentions.
Critics of some of the aforementioned campaigns are calling for companies to put their money where their mouth is. Trans models make for great internet fodder, but how many have difficulty finding employment in your stores or worse, feel unwelcome in your boutiques? Have these big name brands supported the LGBTQ community monetarily? We have to put pressure on these brands to make this just as important as a campaign and a catchy hashtag.
The casting of trans models is an important step toward inclusion, but it just can’t stop there.
With the alarming rate of transphobic crime mirroring the growing rate of visible trans models, one has to ask, does a trans model in a fashion magazine do anything to help the transitioning woman in a small town? Does visibility on the runway ever trickle down to rural communities? Sadly sometimes inclusion starts small. Sometimes the movement starts with a trans character in a tv show or in some cases, a fashion ad.