Tim Gunn on Transgender Runway Models: “I Think It’s Horrible”

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Human truth bomb Tim Gunn has never been afraid to make a critique, whether it’s on Hilary Clinton or superheroes. It is, after all, what he does for a living.

Now he’s again opened up to Huffington Post, not just about his own sexuality, but about gay role models in the fashion industry in general, and transgender models specifically. This last point is something he’s touched upon in the past, but in light of recent ad campaigns and gossip mag headlines, the issue is more relevant than ever.

On that Barneys campaign, Gunn expresses reluctance at labeling the hiring of transgender models a coup for the industry:

“I feel that these are people who are already ‘on the team.’ I think it could be more impactful if Target or Kmart were to do such a thing.”

He also has conflicting opinions about the Andrej Pejic phenomenon, specifically about the appropriateness of men or transgender models being cast in women’s runway shows:

“The fact that fashion designers would put basically adolescent-shaped boys or men in women’s clothes is head-scratching for me because, anatomically, women and men have different shapes. So, to be looking at women’s fashion on a tall, skinny guy with no hips, there’s no way you can project yourself into those clothes.”

“It underscores all of those body issues that we know women have,” he continues. “It’s the world telling us that there’s something wrong with us and that we’d look better in our clothes and the world would think us more beautiful if we looked like this. I think it’s horrible.”

Gunn’s own reservations reflect many of the industry as a whole, and are especially interesting considering his own struggles with sexuality.

“I’m conflicted,” he says. “On one hand, I don’t want to say that because you were a man and now you’re a woman, you can’t be in a women’s fashion show. But I feel it’s a dicey issue. The fact of the matter is, when you are transgender — if you go, say, male to female — you’re not having your pelvis broken and having it expanded surgically. You still have the anatomical bone structure of a man.”

Clearly fashion needs to represent a larger spectrum of body types in general — skinny and trans women, after all, are just as “real” as larger women — but it’s easier said than done. And while moves like casting transgender models in campaigns do need to be taken with a grain of salt, the fact that they’re targeted towards people ‘on the team’ doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not hugely impactful. Casting trans models shows is still sending a positive message to younger members of the LGBT community, whether or not they’re buying three-piece suits from Barneys. Considering Gunn has spoken before about his struggle to find relatable role models in the fashion industry, you’d think he’d be more sensitive toward the struggles of people who’s sexuality is even less widely accepted.

It will certainly be a happy day when Target casts a transgender model, but until then we’ll keep championing the little diversity there is.

Read our interview with Barneys model Ryley Pogensky here, and the rest of Gunn’s comments on HuffPo.

Related links:
Tim Gunn Thinks Hilary Clinton Is ‘Confused About Her Gender’
Tim Gunn Thinks Plus-Sized Fashion Is ‘Devastating’
6 Things We Learned From Tim Gunn at His Fashion Bible Book Party

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