Self described as a “fire-breathing trans femme dragoness golden lily with callused fingers and a home sewing kit”, Gogo Graham is one of the many trans individuals who are taking on gender diversity and trans acceptance in the fashion industry. A New York City-based designer who recently debuted a collection at Manhattan’s Ace Hotel during New York Fashion Week this past September, Graham custom makes every piece specifically for the individual model she has in mind, “the collection does not exist without them.”
Graham is not alone in staking a place for trans people in the fashion industry. Peche Di, a Thai beauty queen, recently founded a modelling agency “run by and for trans models” in New York. The industry has seen an influx of designers, models, and other industry professionals who are pushing against the gender normative and binary-thinking that has long reigned the runways. With the growing fame of trans models like Andrea Pejic and Carmen Carrera, as well as many who have come before them and others who are still relatively new to the scene, trans individuals are slowly becoming more visible and accepted within the industry.
As a designer, Gogo Graham opted to use only trans femme models in her runway show during NYFW, “I used only trans models because trans aesthetic can only be expressed authentically by trans people.” In a society that still views gender as innate and binary, transgender people face heavy discrimination and it is no different in the fashion industry. “Trans Models is a vehicle for advocacy and a means of rendering visible and celebrating a people who have been discriminated against and marginalized. Trans models is ultimately about expanding the circle of inclusiveness in our society,” says Peche Di.
Laith-Ashley de la Cruz, a model signed by Di, offers a similar sentiment, “I want to show the world that there’s not just one way to be trans.” The United States has recently seen a growth in the visibility of trans people, from Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black to Caitlyn Jenner on I Am Cait. The stories of trans experiences and lives are slowly beginning to be portrayed authentically in mainstream movies, television, and in literature such as Janet Mock‘s Redefining Realness. And now these experiences are being shared on the runway as well.