Australian fashion model Andreja Pejic has made her life’s work complicating gender in fashion spreads, posing for both men’s and women’s collections on the covers of highbrow glossies and on the catwalk. Up until now, she’s been officially listed as a male model (despite her gorgeous runway moment in Jean Paul Gaultier women’s bridal wear in 2011). But today she’s come out to the press as a trans woman, after undergoing gender reassignment surgery. That’s a big deal, not just for fashion, but the world at large. Pejic represents yet another role model for the trans community, and a spokesperson for equality.
Pejic, 22, decided to come out because, she told People, she believes that the more people become aware of the trans community, the harder it will be to discriminate against them. “I want to share my story with the world because I think I have a social responsibility,” she said. “I hope that by being open about this, it becomes less of an issue.”
Pejic was credited with propelling fashion’s androgynous trend back in 2011, but for her it was always more than a look:
“I was proud of my gender-nonconforming career,” Pejic told People. “But my biggest dream was to be comfortable in my own body. I have to be true to myself and the career is just going to have to fit around that.”
The Serbian-born model said she “always dreamt of being a girl,” but society didn’t always support that dream. Once she started school, she recalls putting away the skirts and dolls and trying to fit in as a boy. She didn’t see any alternative, that is, until she discovered the Internet.
“I figured out who I was very early on—actually, at the age of 13, with the help of the Internet—so I knew that a transition, becoming a woman, was always something I needed to do,” Pejic told Style.com. “Androgyny became a way of expressing my femininity without having to explain myself to people too much.”
Pejic underwent surgery earlier this year, and legally changed her name from Andrej to Andreja in order to reflect her evolving identity.
She also adamantly agrees with fellow trans role models Laverne Cox and Janet Mock that the specifics of her reassignment surgery are nobody’s business. “What’s in between anyone’s legs is not who they are,” she said.