Playboy has always been famed for being ahead of its time. Its founder, the late Hugh Hefner, was one of the LGBTQ+ community’s earliest allies, and from the 1950s onwards, he used the magazine as a platform to change societal norms.
In 1955, Hefner published The Crooked Man. It was a short story about a world where heterosexuals were persecuted because homosexuality was the norm, turning society’s then attitudes on their head to show how wrong they were.
Whilst attitudes towards homosexuality have improved over the years, with the decriminalisation of sodomy in 1962 and, more recently, the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, many members of the LGBTQ+ community still remain persecuted.
Until the noughties, the challenges transgender people face remained relatively unknown as they did not have any high profile allies. But that all changed in 2015 when Caitlyn Jenner came out, bringing the issue to the fore of popular culture.
Now transgender people are making waves in a number of arenas, with actresses like Laverne Cox using their fame to further transgender rights. However, transgender people remain the most persecuted members of the LGBTQ+ community.
To help normalize the fact that gender exists on a spectrum, Playboy announced that it would be having its first transgender playmate on the cover of its November 2017 issue, having first allowed transgender a woman to grace its pages in 1981.
Although it was not publicised that Playboy had a transgender model in 1981, Caroline Cossey, pictured above, was outed a year later by tabloids. She used the controversy to help the transgender community and appeared in the magazine again in 1991.
However, the majority of straight men’s attitudes towards transgender women have not changed, and Playboy‘s decision to have its first transgender playmate has been met with a barrage of criticism from fans of the men’s magazine.
Despite the fact that transgender women are as beautiful as those who are cisgender, many homophobic and transphobic straight men are perturbed by the possibility that they could be attracted to a woman who was not assigned the female gender at birth.
Speaking about her experience as Playboy‘s first ever transgender model, Cossey said, “I had done pinups and calendars and glamour shoots, but to be the first transsexual in Playboy, I felt absolutely honored. I remember being invited to the Mansion to meet Hugh Hefner.”
“He looked into my eyes and I immediately knew he felt my story. He felt my cause.”
Since the magazine’s inception in 1953, Playboy has had a playmate each month – its first famously being Marilyn Monroe. The magazine’s first transgender playmate is 26-year-old model Inea Rau, pictured above, who has recently worked with Vogue.
The November 2017 issue is set to be a memorial to Hugh Hefner after his passing in September.
Hefner’s son, Cooper, has taken over as Chief Creative Officer of the infamous magazine, and his decision to include a transgender playmate in this issue would have unquestionably been met with approval by his father.
Rau began her transition when she was just 16 years old, and had gender reassignment surgery shortly afterwards. Because she never underwent male puberty, she is often mistaken for a cisgender woman.
Her ability to pass as cisgender was something that she embraced for a long time, but now she is being open about being transgender.
“I lived a long time without saying I was transgender. I dated a lot and almost forgot. I was scared of never finding a boyfriend and being seen as weird. Then I was like, you know, you should just be who you are.”
It’s a salvation to speak the truth about yourself, whether it’s your gender, sexuality, whatever. The people who reject you aren’t worth it. It’s not about being loved by others: it’s about loving yourself.”
Rau is honored to have been selected as the magazine’s first ever transgender playmate.
“When I was doing this shoot, I was thinking of all those hard days in my childhood. And now everything happening gives me so much joy and happiness. I thought, ‘Am I really going to be a Playmate—me?’ It’s the most beautiful compliment I’ve ever received. It’s like getting a giant bouquet of roses.”
However, the news was met with much criticism when it was announced by the magazine yesterday, with many Playboy fans taking to Twitter to express their outrage that a transgender woman was going to be a playmate.
Thankfully, however, people were quick to shut shown homophobes like @rnseth101 and @AdamHargitai007, who are not only close-minded, but have a very poor grasp of basic English grammar.
Perhaps my favorite comment online has pointed out that if nobody told these guys she was transgender, they would have seen the front cover, bought the magazine, gone home and fapped all over it! So true…
Rau has made it clear that she cares about a number of important causes, and there is no doubt that she will use her platform as a playmate to help further them.
“I will always fight for LGBTQ rights and women’s rights, but above everything else, my cause is the environment. Nothing touches me more than fighting against global warming. I was made to fight for the planet—the forest, the animals, the air. If I get famous, that’s my first battle.”
We commend the magazine’s decision to represent all women and hope that future transgender models do not have to suffer the abuse that Rau is receiving. It’s testament to the fact that we still have a long way to go when it comes to furthering LGBTQ+ rights.
The November 2017 issue of Playboy will be available for purchase on October 31, however, it already available to download online.