Teddy Quinlivan, a model who has walked for everyone from Marc Jacobs to Louis Vuitton, has come out as transgender.
Teddy, who has also worn the likes of Gucci and Versace on the runway over the past few months, made the announcement during an interview with CNN Style. The model, who transitioned when she was 16, said she wanted to come out now because of the way Donald Trump’s administration is treating trans people.
Quinlivan, 23, said: “I’ve decided to reveal my trans identity because of the political climate in the world right now – particularly in the United States.
“We made an amazing progression under the Obama administration, and since the new administration took office there’s been a kind of backlash.”
She added that the number of trans people being killed in the US also influenced her decision. A total of 19 have been killed this year so far.
“There’s been violence against transgender people – particularly transgender women of color – since before I even knew what transgender was.
“I just felt a great sense of urgency. I’m very fortunate to be in [a] position [that] I never really thought I would be. It’s really important to take advantage”.
Writing on Instagram yesterday, she dedicated her appearance at New York Fashion Week to all the trans women who have been killed.
Today I walked for Marc Jacobs, but I also walked for Venus Extravaganza, Mesha Caldwell, Jo Jo Striker, Jaquarrius Holland, and countless other trans women who's lives were cut short due to senseless violence and lack of understanding. I love all my Transgender brothers and sisters and I will do whatever it takes to make a difference. Know that you are not alone, know that I'm here fighting for our community; fighting for our liberation.
“Today I walked for Marc Jacobs, but I also walked for Venus Extravaganza, Mesha Caldwell, Jo Jo Striker, Jaquarrius Holland, and countless other trans women [whose] lives were cut short due to senseless violence and lack of understanding,” she said.
“I love all my transgender brothers and sisters and I will do whatever it takes to make a difference.
“Know that you are not alone, know that I’m here fighting for our community; fighting for our liberation.”
Speaking to CNN, she said that in these dangerous times for trans people, the government’s decisions could not be separated from her personal life.
“I think the personal is political,” she said, quoting a common feminist phrase.
“It’s political, but I’m also doing it for myself. I was ready to come out, but I think the times we live in elevated the sense of importance and urgency.”
And she was ready to take on the inevitable backlash.
“I’m definitely a little bit nervous, because I’ve been presenting as cisgender for so long.
“Since I transitioned when I was 16, I’ve been living as a cis female … I was very lucky, because I won the genetic lottery – I looked a certain way and my voice hadn’t dropped,” she explained.
“That privilege gave me a lot of confidence to walk down the street, date and [work] in the fashion industry, where people I would presume I was a ‘normal’ girl.
“But,” she added, “when you come out as transgender to the world, on a platform, there may be some backlash.
“People might be violent against me because of something I never chose.
“That makes me nervous, but I’m really excited to share my story with the world. My optimism outweighs the fear.”
She has already won support from the likes of Marc Jacobs himself, who said: “I respect, admire and support Teddy’s decision to come out as transgender.
“Now more than ever it is vital that we pledge our allegiance to the LGBT community and use our voices to encourage and inspire acceptance, equality, understanding and love.”
GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said that Teddy was “sending a phenomenal message to transgender youth by using her personal story to show that transgender women can and should aspire to be whatever they want to be.”
And Teddy said that if the public wants to see her as a trans model rather than simply as a model, she’s prepared.
“I don’t think it’s a problem because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being trans,” she explained.
“I’m a woman first and foremost … I’m a model but I’m also transgender, and I think in a time when I can count most transgender celebrities on my hands, [that] is crucial.
“If being transgender is something that gets attached to my name throughout my career, then it’s for a worthy cause. But I look forward to the day when it doesn’t matter.”
She said that while growing up, she was confronted by a sheer lack of people who showed her examples of what she could be.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have any trans role models until I was probably 18 or 19.
“Laverne Cox being on Orange Is the New Black is new. Janet Mock, Caitlyn Jenner coming out – that’s recent,” she added.
“When I was growing up it was all Jerry Springer and Maury Povich. I was seeing this exploitation of trans women.
“They were made to seem like a bad joke. I felt like that was such a negative portrayal. I wasn’t like the women on these TV shows, so it gave me a lot of confusion.”
She wanted to fill that gap and be the role model she never had when she was young, in a media landscape which still contains only a few trans celebrities.
“Hopefully my story reaches people in the same way that the stories of Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have [already] reached trans people.
“There are not a lot of openly trans people in media, and I think it’s really important to show people that not only am I trans, I’m [also] very successful and good at what I do.”
She said that by being a prominent face in the fashion industry, she can make a difference.
“I think one of the ways we can help people in the trans community is to give them a platform.
“And I think the fashion industry plays a very crucial role in that. The fashion industry dictates what’s in fashion, what’s cool, what’s acceptable.
“It’s not just about who’s walking fashion shows … it’s about who’s on every newsstand in the country.
“The transgender community needs more visibility. And with more visibility will come more acceptance.”