• Tue, Aug 27 - 2:25 pm ET

American Apparel ‘Transexy!’ Open Call For Transgender Models Misses The Mark

Transgender models open call American Apparel

It’s no secret that transgender people are often censored and excluded from mainstream media. Trans* men and women are profoundly underrepresented, and when they are placed in ads or television or film, they’re either highly sexualized, sensationalized or the butt of a joke. This is not okay and it needs to change. That’s why I was so optimistic when I saw American Apparel was looking for trans* models.

On their Instagram account, AA posted the above photo along with this caption:

NYC, we’re hosting an open call for transgendered/transsexual models! Stop by our Chelsea store today from 4pm – 6pm! 181 8th Ave. New York, NY 10011 #AAmodels #LGBTQpride

Awesome, right? Well, sort of. While it’s awesome that a major company — albeit an historically “meh” one — wants to find amateur models who are transgender, it is frustrating that it used the word “transgendered.” According to a 2010 article by transgender advocate and author Joanna Herman, the word is less descriptive, more derogatory.

Readers of my age and older will remember a sad time when this country labeled African-Americans as “colored people.” One problem with this label was that it implied something happened to make the person “of color,” which denied the person’s dignity of being born that way. Today, we are somewhat more enlightened and say “people of color” instead.

Most transgender people I know have felt a gender incongruity for as long as they remember, and evolving science says we were probably born feeling like this. The only thing that changed along the way has been our awareness that there are others like us. We didn’t “decide” to be transgender.

Again, I see that American Apparel’s efforts — while more likely driven by the desire to maintain a certain level of controversy than noble intentions — are not awful by any means. I was stoked when AA first used a transgender model a while back! I just wish the company had been sure to do its research before sending out this casting call, as this just depletes the positivity in its efforts.

Instead, it comes across more as an accessorizing deal than an actual desire to promote divergence from the typical cisgender, light-skinned, tall, thin, etc. models. Plus, as HuffPo commenters pointed out, the desire to have “no visible makeup” on applicants could be viewed as insensitive to those who utilize beauty products to enhance their gender identity’s projection to the world.

That said, I am still excited that such a large company is doing more to diversify the models who represent its brand. The thought of living in a world where all the transgender individuals I know are able to regularly see people in the media who better represent them is so, so wonderful. Hopefully, more companies will follow AA’s lead (but better) and see transgender people as…well, people.

What do you think of its casting call?

[via Fashionista]

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  • Charmless

    Eeeehhhh… I’m kinda scared. Isis’s spread was as lovely as an AA ad could ever be, but remember the shit-show that was their plus size model search?

    Are they going to launch the ads alongside an attention-seeking press release that says “LOOK WHAT WE DID!” or will they integrate trans models into the campaign without any mention of which models are trans and which are cis? The worst outcome I can think of is that it’ll veer into fetishism and exploitation. Say they go extreme and release an underwear ad that features a woman with breasts and an untucked penis. Would it be in the spirit of acceptance, or because they know damn well every news outlet in the country would talk about it?

  • Natalie

    Most model casting calls ask for no makeup so they were probably doing what they are use to doing. I don’t see any problem with that, a good casting director will find who fits the ad then the makeup will enhance it. As it works for most models.

  • Chelsea

    Am I completely missing something? It is unclear to me what the problem is. Is it literally just the addition of “ed” at the end of “transgender” that is the issue? Or the use of any combination of “trans” and “gender?” From where I’m sitting, I cannot distinguish from the article what is correct, and what is incorrect. I only see grammatical differences.

    I wish that the article would plainly state “say this! And not this!” It seems to be written from the perspective that the appropriate language is obvious and/or well known, though it clearly isn’t to me, nor to the probably dozens of people at AA who approved the ad before it went up.

    • Alexis A

      Use “transgender person” not “transgendered person”.