Newsweek’s transphobic profile of model Lea T.

Lea T
I’m a little late to Mac Margolis’ Newsweek profile of Lea T. because, to be honest, I’m so completely over this whole “trans is the hot new thing in fashion!” meme. But wow this article is seriously the worst.

The problems start in the article’s subheading:

Brazil’s hottest new model is tall, dark, and glamorous. She’s also a he.

No, she’s a she. She may have been assigned male at birth but she’s female identified, and that makes her female. Welcome to Gender 101!

The subheading goes on to describe Lea T. as “fashion’s gender-bending muse” and the article suggests fashion’s interest in “gender bending” is part of the industry’s history of being “outrageous.” Which speaks to how problematic the obsession with trans and gender non-conforming models is right now. It’s about a different, edgy, provocative androgyny, and part of the same aesthetic that has 13 year old girls posing in high fashion magazines. Not actually about respecting these models’ gender identities.

The article continues the “ZOMG chick’s really a dude!” theme with statements like, “who’d have figured that the hottest new face from Brazil is not a she at all?” Except she is!

Then we move into one of the most stereotypical examples of a trans narrative I’ve seen. Lea is trans, apparently, because she didn’t like football as a kid. Most of the article is focused not on her fashion success but her social and physical transition process. Because that’s just what we need, more childhood arguments that paint trans folks as the proof of gender essentialism – if you don’t like football you’re a girl! – and more exclusive focus on the medicalization of our bodies instead of, like, our humanity, or maybe the subject’s career.

There’s even plenty of the whole “trans people are deceitful” thing peppered throughout the article. In a description of Lea T.’s presentation Margolis points to her hands and voice because they, “belie the angel’s tableau.” I don’t care how many pretty words you use, what you mean is her deception. By which you mean her female-ness is a lie. By which you suck.

The profile’s author is on Twitter @macmargolis if you’d like to explain gender to him. You can contact Newsweek here to let them know how you feel about this sort of uninformed, sensationalistic writing about trans folks.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    Gender is complicated, as we know. It’s easy to resort to simple answers that are factually inaccurate. But to transform it into the latest fetish or trend is something to which I take particular offense.

    Doing so trivializes the struggles of those who are transgender.

    • http://feministing.com/members/bralalalala/ Bralalalala

      Great evaluation of transgirls social troubles.
      Sadly, being chastised in public is still a step
      up for us from being viewed as simply non
      existent. However, the stubborn still refuse
      to believe such a thing as a genuinely pretty, or
      genuine at all transgender girl exists. So in
      this sense I think the mainstream still doesn’t
      realize we exist.