Inclusivity seems like a no-brainer at this point but in our current politically-charged climate there are still factions that see fit to curb progress (see here). For the transgendered community, the restrictions implemented by our current Attorney General last week aren’t as simplistic as misinterpreting the Civil Rights Act — it can mean life or death. While politics and fashion seem worlds away, one would be remiss to think that what goes on in Washington doesn’t have countrywide, if not worldwide, impact.
For Casil McArthur, male model, transgender advocate, and regular teenager, changing the global narrative that the transgender community doesn’t need support from the powers that be stands paramount. In a year and a half he has garnered industry support from Steven Meisel, Craig McDean, and Collier Schorr, and has had brands like Gap, Kenneth Cole, and Marc Jacobs pushing his face to households worldwide. Part of Kenneth Cole‘s Courageous Class panel, his recent visit to the United Nations to talk about gender equality was the perfect platform to discuss his personal experience and the current issues that continue to plague transgendered people both stateside and abroad. We spoke to the runway star to discuss his experience talking at the UN, his daring story in the fashion industry, and how he keeps grounded.
The Marc Jacobs show was wonderful! It must be great to have his continued support?
It’s been really awesome having their continuous support. I had white hair before this and they dyed it black for the show because they want a big look. I was really thankful that it was me and I feel like a special being. I feel like my punk and emo side is resurfacing.
I saw that the UN panel was in partnership with Kenneth Cole – how was it having that opportunity and being able to talk amongst all those international dignitaries?
I was super terrified but I’m very thankful for Kenneth Cole for giving me that opportunity. They do a lot of things for the gay community and AIDS prevention and awareness. It’s a really great brand to be a part of and allowing me the access to the United Nations which was the biggest platform I could possibly talk at. Being able to reach all the people I’ve been trying to reach – amazing. When it was time to go on stage I got taken away with stage fright. It was my first time public speaking and of course they had me speak first! I still managed to say what I wanted to but I hope I get another opportunity to speak there again that way I can pull through in the way that I wanted to without my fear.
What more would you have wanted to say?
I talked about issues for trans kids and the difficulties of being accepted in school. Having safe spaces in schools for trans children and safe work places for trans people. In general what I wanted was to get a better message across to people, especially people that aren’t knowledgeable about our community, to recognize us and accept us. To be open to learning. As long as there is no ignorance I feel like people can live in harmony. I wanted to be able to talk to people more. Inform them more.
When did you find out you were going to be speaking at the UN?
I think I found out the weekend before the event. I knew it was a possibility before then but then on the weekend it was confirmed and I got the call. Any time I get these big opportunities and I tell my friends or my boyfriend they’re always freaking out. Like I never fully understand the impact of the things I’m doing until I’m actually in the moment. So for the United Nations, I wasn’t nervous about it and then everybody was like “holy sh*t” and then I got nervous (laughs) I just don’t think it clicked and in my head I was thinking “this can’t be real”. Up until the point of me being there and going through security.
What has been your experience in the fashion industry?
I started modeling when I was 10 years old. So I’ve been modelling for like 8 years now. It’s been a while. My career didn’t pick up until I started male modelling and I’m pretty sure that happened because I wasn’t meant to be a female model. I was meant to be the right person and then be a model. When I first started modelling as a male model, I feel like it was really awkward working with people. Honestly, I got called a “butch” and a “dyke” quite frequently. Nobody knew how to approach a trans male and the closest thing people could relate me to was a “tomboy model”- a masculine female. At the start of my transition that was what people were taking me for. I haven’t encountered any of that behavior lately
When I started modelling as a guy, I had just started testosterone shots within that first week. Physically my face has changed, my voice has changed, and now that I’ve had my top surgery I’m where I want to be in my transition. I feel myself right now. It’s been a really positive experience because I get the privileges of working with Marc Jacobs and have Kenneth Cole supporting me and my message. And it’s not just the brand – it’s Marc Jacobs himself and Kenneth Cole himself who genuinely support me and care for the message that I have to bring. Which is the greatest and most mind-boggling opportunity I think somebody in my position could ever have.
How do you feel about making leeway for other models that have a similar experience to you?
It’s always scary to be the first. I have so many kids these days that message me and ask me about modelling. They’ll tell me that they want to model now and they never thought they would go outside their comfort zone to do so because they were trans or gender non-conformity or agender. I think there this weird stigma that when trans people transition they have to conform to the gender they’re transitioning to in order to “pass”. It’s a stigma that I want to destroy.