"What is between my legs is not thoroughly who I am. If gender is black and white, I'm grey," says Ryley Pogensky, a gender queer model who appears in Barneys New York's new campaign.
The luxury retailer usually plays it safe when it comes to advertising, but with its latest effort, it's gone in a bold new direction, casting 17 transgender and gender queer models in a shoot lensed by Bruce Weber.
This is no conventional catalogue. Titled Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters, this campaign doesn't just look gorgeous - each image is enriched by the story that comes with it.
The focus is not on the clothing, but on the models (or non-models) themselves, who also come from different races, socioeconomic positions and places on the transgender spectrum. They were photographed besides their family members and support systems as a visual reminder of how far we've come in recognising gender-based equality.
Vanity Fair's Patricia Bosworth was invited to interview each model, with excerpts and photos compiled into portfolios that will appear in magazines and on Barney's blog, The Window.
Barneys will also unveil a series of videos, the first of which features the remarkable story of teenaged transgender former couple Arin Andrews and Katie Hill.
Continuing the fashion industry's long history of trans-acceptance and support, Barneys will donate 10 per cent of all sales from February 11 to the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, both of which partnered with the store on the campaign.
Dennis Freedman, the creative force behind the project, says, "Great progress has been made in regards to the lesbian, gay and bisexual community. Unfortunately, the struggle for transgender equality continues. In the end, it is our hope that that we can make a difference through this campaign."
MEET SOME OF THE OTHER MODELS ...
INES: "Sure, I dream about finding a husband who accepts me as I am. I even dream about the traditional wedding. Until recently nobody knew I was a trans person. I had a boyfriend of a year; he had no idea. Then I told him the truth-that I'd been born a man. That ended the relationship. I was upset. Then I realised I didn't want to lie anymore. I don't want to live in fear of being rejected. Now I am telling everybody."
RYLEY (CENTRE) PICTURED WITH HIS GRANDPARENTS AND FELLOW GENDER QUEER MODEL VALENTIJN: "My closest and loudest (we are Jews from New York after all) supporters are my grandparents. They have never stopped with their endless encouragement. They love me so much; love is something that you can never, ever take for granted. Love can make you and it can break you; their love means everything to me. They accept me as a mix of both genders. I've explained to them in detail why I like playing around with gender and what gender means to me. I really would like to change people’s perceptions about gender and sexuality, there is such ignorance, confusion, and stupid anger about the trans world."
MAXIE: "I am 20 years old. I grew up in a small town in southern Germany. I knew my entire life I was really a girl, and finally I couldn’t control the impulse to be feminine. I began to transition in my teens; I started wearing dresses. My parents accepted what I was doing but were worried about how it would affect my younger sister - and they were also scared about what the neighbours would say. We lived in a tiny village where people are very conventional."
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