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Andreja Pejic, the Bosnian-born supermodel known for her striking androgyny, has come out as transgender, announcing on social media Thursday that she’s officially transitioned from male to female, and that doing so has saved her life.
“As a transgender woman I hope to show that after transition (a life-saving process) one can be happy and successful in their new chapter without having to alienate their past,” the 22-year-old wrote in a message to Facebook fans, in which she thanked everyone for their support over the years. “I think we all evolve as we get older and that’s normal but I like to think that my recent transition hasn’t made me into a different individual. Same person, no difference at all just a different sex, I hope you can all understand that.”
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Reactions to Pejic’s announcement — made with fanfare not only on social media but on E Online, Style.com and People.com, and with careful guidance from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) — have ranged from supportive to downright celebratory.
“Andreja has been globally known for her beauty, and now she will be globally known for her courage,” Jenny Boylan, a noted transgender memoirist and GLAAD’s national board of directors co-chair, told Yahoo Health. “She is doing a very brave thing — being unashamed of who she is — which will send a message to other transgender people that there’s nothing wrong with who you are.”
On Twitter, transgender advocate and “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox wrote to Pejic, “Congrats on publicly claiming your truth as a trans woman. You’re now part of a resilient, beautiful & mighty sisterhood.” Actor Wilson Cruz tweeted, “Happy for you!,” while Janet Mock, activist and “Redefining Realness” author, wrote, “Sending love to @andrejapejic as she steps fwd publicly as a #trans woman. Welcome to the sisterhood!”
The Australian-raised beauty, who, as Andrej Pejic, has graced the covers of Serbian Elle and French Vogue and modeled everything from Jean-Paul Gaultier tuxedo jackets to Rosa Clara bridal gowns, has been helping break ground for a widening field of transgender models for years. Though she was previously listed as a male model with agencies around the world, she walked both the male and female Gaultier runways in 2011. Since then, transgender model Lea T of Brazil has appeared on the cover of Brazilian Elle, Dutch Valentijn de Hingh was featured in the pages of Italian Vogue, and Carmen Carrera made a bid to become the first transgender Victoria’s Secret model. Earlier this year, Naomi Campbell publicly spoke out in support of trans models.
In her interview with Style.com, Pejic was particularly open, addressing the sexual reassignment surgery she underwent recently and describing it as being the “icing on the cake” of her transition. She spoke about how the surgery is much more than a “plastic procedure,” and has been of great importance to her overall mental health. “You have to get a psychiatric evaluation, which I started at the age of 13,” she explained. “I started seeing psychiatrists, and then I stopped when I started modeling, and I started again about a year and a half ago. But medical attention is crucial for any trans person because it helps you figure out who you are. You go through some really strict testing before you’re even allowed to have the surgery.”
She admitted that knowing who she was from an early age sometimes made for a difficult boyhood. “Gender dysphoria is never an easy thing to live with, mainly because people don’t understand it,” she said, referring to clinical diagnosis for having conflict between one’s physical sex and identified gender. “For most of my childhood, I knew that I preferred all things feminine, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t know that there was an explanation. I didn’t know about the possibilities.”
The idea of Pejic’s transition being life-saving could have a couple of meanings, Antonio Caretto, a Michigan-based clinical psychologist specializing in transgender issues, told Yahoo Health. “For some, it could mean being faced with a choice: ‘Do I live like this, in the wrong [gender] presentation? Or do I kill myself?,” adding that, in the LGBT community, there are well-documented higher rates of attempted suicide as well as drug and alcohol abuse. But also, on a very basic level, Caretto said the idea could mean, “If you’re not living your true self, you’re not really living.”
“No one should have to live an inauthentic life, in which they are not true to themselves,” she said. “Some people think the biggest change [in transitioning] is going from being male to female. But the biggest change is going from someone who has a secret to someone who lives their truth out loud.”