This week, Playboy announced it will feature its first transgender Playmate, 26-year-old French model Ines Rau, on its cover. While the magazine has featured a transgender model in pictorials in the past, Rau will be the first to appear on the cover.
Cooper Hefner, Hugh Hefner’s son and a top executive at the company, said that the decision to feature Rau on the November issue “very much speaks to the brand’s philosophy. […] It’s the right thing to do. We’re at a moment where gender roles are evolving,” he told The New York Times.
Rau — who has appeared in American Vogue, Italian Vogue, and a Balmain campaign (among others), told the Times in the same piece that she cried from happiness when she found out she would be appearing in the iconic publication. However, while many posted their support for the magazine’s decision, Playboy’s social media feeds were also filled with a slew of negative comments.
She continued, “My story is very heavy, and you’re going to always have people who don’t understand and are being very mean, and seeing that, it makes even more sense to fight for awareness and respect.”
For many — even those of us in full and loving support of our transgender brothers and sisters — this news may feel problematic. Any strides to normalize transgender men and women in the public consciousness seems like a step in the right direction. However, Playboy has a history of playing a role in the objectification of women, perpetuating the notion women exist for the sexual pleasure and amusement of men. While socially conscious in certain regards (the magazine has long been at the forefront of gay and civil rights), it’s still a complicated issue. How much of a step forward is it?
Unfortunately, we don’t have all the answers on this one. We’re thrilled that Rau and her story will reach a huge international audience with her cover, which will hopefully help spread further awareness — and ultimately, acceptance — of the transgender community. But let’s always remember that there’s no one way to be a woman or one ideal to which all women should aspire — despite what we see on the pages of Playboy.