Gender is no longer as simple as male and female, and every day the distinction is very gradually becoming less important. Take Andrej Pejic, who now goes by Andreja, a fashion model who was once the face of androgyny, but is now a fully transitioned woman.
Pejic has made history. Vogue features a spread and interview with the model in its upcoming issue, the first time the magazine has ever featured a transgendered person. And that’s a positive move in a society that is getting more comfortable with the spectrum of gender, but still isn’t quite there.
Even Pejic had her doubts growing up.
“Society doesn’t tell you that you can be trans. I thought about being gay, but it didn’t fit… I thought, Well, maybe (living as a girl) is just something you like to imagine sometimes. Try to be a boy and try to be normal.”
Pejic ‘s journey to Vogue has been a long one. A refugee of the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict and immigrant to Australia, Andrej, 24, was discovered at age 16 in a Australian McDonald’s; her agent had no idea if she was male or female.
Since then, Pejic walked runways (as a male model) in Paris with Jean Paul Gaultier, Jeremy Scott, and Marc Jacobs and has been featured in GQ Australia, Elle Serbia, and i-D, Us Magazine reported. In addition to her Vogue spread, Pejic has also made history by being the first transgendered model to land a cosmetics contract – with Make Up For Ever, added the Independent.
But life before that was a struggle to downplay the femininity that was a natural feature of Andrej’s personality.
“I wanted to stop puberty in its early tracks. I was worried about my feet being too big, my hands being too big, my jawline being too strong,” Andrej said.
Pejic even took synthetic, puberty-suppressing hormones in her teen years — a secret from her mother.
Last year, Andrej went under the knife to make the official transition from male to female with gender confirmation surgery (it’s no longer called gender reassignment surgery). This was followed by a two-month recovery — and today, Andrej is a stunning beauty without a touch of masculinity.
Acceptance of transgendered people like Pejic is emerging elsewhere — not just in the fashion world: President Obama became the first president to use the term, Wellesley College announced it’ll accept applications from anyone who “lives and defines” as female, Medicare dropped transgender exclusions, and 62 colleges will provide hormones and surgery to students. Hollywood has gotten in on the trend with shows like Transparent and Orange Is the New Black, and an upcoming film called The Danish Girl, featuring Eddie Redmayne, who plays the first person to undergo the surgery.
It’s not a complete transition from judgment to acceptance, however. Trans people like Andrej Pejic overwhelmingly experience discrimination, almost half attempt suicide and only eight percent of Americans say they’re okay with transgendered people.
But perhaps Andrej, or Andreja as she’s now called, can help usher in a new era, where distinctions between male and female aren’t so concrete.
“There are just more categories now. It’s good. We’re finally figuring out that gender and sexuality are more complicated.”
[Photo Courtesy Craig Barritt/Getty Images]