When Moschino dropped its new Fall/Winter Campaign with model Aaron Philip earlier this week, the internet pretty much went wild.
Aaron has been a rising star within the fashion industry and is more than deserving of the campaign (not to mention the photos are absolutely gorgeous).
And while Aaron has pretty much received nothing but praise, she wasn’t so thrilled with how she was being labeled by the media, who dubbed her a “model and activist.”
The 19-year-old took to Instagram and wrote,
“Dear fashion world & publications, I AM NOT AN ACTIVIST. I am a model. Me happening to be black, trans & disabled doesn’t mean I want to be politicized that way. I am a model & artist.”
Aaron’s reaction is understandable — for the media to focus on the one part of her identity that society has decided is “political” rather than her incredible body of work is insulting. Aaron is a talented model who has posed for Vogue, British Vogue, and Vogue Italia. She’s also nabbed the cover of Paper magazine, rocked the runway for Willie Norris Workshop, and appeared in Miley Cyrus‘ music video for “Mother’s Daughter”.
While Aaron does sometimes use her Instagram to discuss issues affecting trans black women and people with disabilities, that doesn’t mean she necessarily wants that to be part of her public persona.
Unfortunately, what’s happening to Aaron is not uncommon for trans women in the public eye. The media has become obsessed with the politics of transness — debating whether or not being trans is “real,” asking every trans person about their genitals, endlessly discussing whether or not trans people can merely use the bathroom. The media loves to focus on a trans person’s gender identity rather than their talents and accomplishments. It’s as if their transness is the most interesting thing about them (which is absurd).
“I’m tired of having to discuss the slices of trauma in our life that oftentimes outweigh some of the triumphs that we do accomplish.”
Just because a person is trans doesn’t mean that we should solely focus on their gender identity. We don’t do it with cisgender people and there shouldn’t be a double standard purely because we love to gawk.
Trans people deserve to be treated as whole people and to reduce them to their gender identity is not only insulting but narrow-minded. People who are trans have a lot more to offer the world than — to use Janet’s words — “slices of trauma”. And it’s time we start acting like it.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel and when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her obsessing over her tuxedo cat Tom or hoarding drugstore lipsticks.