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Playboy paves the way toward gender acceptance and equality

Playboy features a transgender model on the cover of the magazine for the first time since it’s creation in 1953

Mitra Shafii, Staff Reporter

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26-year-old French model Ines Rau recently became Playboy’s first transgender playmate. This isn’t Rau’s first time posing for Playboy, but it is her first cover. She first appeared in Playboy’s “A-Z issue” in a spread titled “Evolution” back in 2014. The issue aimed to depict the growing acceptance of gender identities.

Many have criticized the magazine, saying this isn’t what Hugh Hefner, the late creator of Playboy, would have wanted. However, the Playboy website states that the magazine is a “significant influence in the shaping of society’s attitudes towards sexuality and civil rights.” Putting a transgender model on the cover does exactly that. Additionally, Rau was chosen to be on the cover months before Hefner’s recent death. She isn’t even the first transgender model to appear in the pages of Playboy. The first was Caroline Cossey in 1981. Cossey was outed as transgender by a British tabloid after her shoot for Playboy. The hate she experienced drove her to a suicide attempt. Ten years later, Cossey reappeared in the magazine. Her intention for the shoot was to prove that transgender people can be sexy and to defy damaging transgender stereotypes.

In an interview with NPR, Rau said, “When I was younger, I had no one to look up to make me feel good and worth being. So if I can be the one to make all transgender people feel worth being, worth loving, this is an amazing thing… everybody deserves to feel good in their skin, you know. Everybody deserves to be happy.”

Looking through the comments on one of her Instagram posts about the cover, it’s clear that being a playmate does not protect you from transphobia. The majority of the comments were positive, but the hate within society towards transgender people was clear. “‘Human’ people who can’t decide what gender they are have a mental disorder,” commented one user. Being transgender is not a mental disorder and it in no way makes them sub-human. Comments like these show how crucial it is for there to be positive transgender representation in the media.

Ballard student, Troy Tragesser, is transgender. He was surprised the first time he saw a transgender person. If there had been more trans representation in the media “I wouldn’t have been as surprised, I would just think it was a normal thing and not that big of an issue,” Tragesser said. He believes that representation is important because it shows people that “transgender people are regular people, they’re normal. They’re just like you and me.”

Just days ago on Nov. 8, Danica Roem became the first openly transgender state lawmaker. Roem defeated one of Virginia’s longest serving lawmakers, Bob Marshall. Marshall is extremely conservative and was very outspoken about his support of the transgender bathroom bill. This is a huge step forward for the transgender community.

Putting a transgender model on the cover of a magazine doesn’t magically erase transphobia, but it does give transgender people all over the world someone to look up to. Someone they can relate to that is telling them to love and accept themselves, when a lot of the world —even the president of the United States— is telling them not to.

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Playboy paves the way toward gender acceptance and equality