#MyVanityFairCover: Trans women are uploading their own 'Vanity Fair' covers
Earlier this week, Laverne Cox wrote an amazing and very important post on Tumblr in response to Caitlyn Jenner’s landmark Vanity Fair cover. In the post, she discussed the narrow beauty standards we apply to trans women, and how trans individuals are often only “accepted” if they pass as cisgender. Many news outlets were quick to praise Jenner’s looks — something Jon Stewart smartly skewered on The Daily Show — but Cox rightly pointed out that they were praising her for a very narrow standard of white, cisnormative beauty.
“Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards. More importantly many trans folks don’t want to embody them and we shouldn’t have to to be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves,” she wrote. “It is important to note that these standards are also informed by race, class, and ability among other intersections. I have always been aware that I can never represent all trans people. No one or two or three trans people can. This is why we need diverse media representations of trans folks to multiply trans narratives in the media and depict our beautiful diversities.”
Cox challenged us to expand our notions of trans beauty, and reiterated that she launched the #TransIsBeautiful hashtag in order for gender-nonconforming individuals to share their photos and their stories. Now, Tumblr has created something just as amazing in response.
Frustrated with media’s narrow representation of trans women, Tumblr users (and roommates!) Crystal Frasier and Jenn Dolari decided to post Vanity Fair covers of their own. And yes, they were just as powerful and gorgeous as the original.
“I’ve felt frustrated and useless and overwhelmed by opinions on transgender women and how we’re ‘supposed’ to look if we want to be taken seriously,” Frasier wrote in her Tumblr post. “But not all of us adhere to those standards. Not all of us want to. Not all of us can. Some of us do, but only out of fear. Some of us do but we aren’t sure why. And whether we fit those standards or not, we’re beautiful, and we all deserve to feel beautiful, and be acknowledged by the world.”
In order to help spread the message, the two launched the hashtag #MyVanityFairCover, inspired by a tweet from Dolari. Frasier then posted her Vanity Fair template to Twitter so others could make covers of their own — and, unsurprisingly, the results have been all kinds of empowering.
“It just sort of clicked that we hadn’t seen many people care about minority trans women who don’t fit a very set definition of attractive, or trans women from poor backgrounds who struggled with long, difficult transitions, or trans women who don’t pass,” Frasier told BuzzFeed News.
“These are stories I want to see out there. To let the public know that we are worthy of our own covers, our own articles, our own stories,” Dolari continued.
Thanks to badass women like Cox and Jenner (amongst many others), trans visibility is definitely on the rise — and we couldn’t be happier to see it. But we still have a long way to go when it comes to raising our acknowledgment and acceptance of just how varied and non-binary gender can be. It is only in better representing this diversity that we can start to change our overall perception of it.
“Most trans folks don’t have the privileges Caitlyn and I now have. It is those trans folks we must continue to lift up, get them access to healthcare, jobs, housing, safe streets, safe schools and homes for our young people,” Cox wrote in her blog post.
While we should be celebrating Jenner for living her truth, it’s important we remember that her experience isn’t necessarily representative of the majority of transgender and non-binary individuals. But acknowledging that the overall acceptance she has received is in part a result of an incredible amount of privilege shouldn’t take away from that celebration. #MyVanityFairCover is the perfect reminder that there is no one set story for transgender individuals — and how important it is that we celebrate and lift up all people, regardless of class, race, gender, or any other factor.
“I think everybody is happy that Caitlyn is happy,” Frasier told Buzzfeed News. “This is in no way any kind of critique on her life or choices, but this is a great moment to remind everyone — especially trans kids who might be taking in a message that their worth is based around their ability to look white and cisnormative — that trans people come in a huge variety and we all deserve love, attention, and understanding.”
We’re completely in awe of Frasier and Dolari for helping to empower and celebrate gender-nonconforming individuals in such an incredible way. For more badass and beautiful Vanity Fair covers, and to join in on the conversation, check out the hashtag #MyVanityFairCover on Tumblr and Twitter.