DRESS: VETEMENTS. JEANS: A.P.C. BELT: SUZI ROHER.HAIR: TOMO JIDAI FOR MOROCCAN OIL/STREETERS. MAKEUP: SALLY BRANKA/LGA MANAGEMENT. MANICURE: GINA EDWARDS FOR DIOR VERNIS/KATE RYAN. PRODUCTION: BO ZHANG. DIGITAL TECHNICIAN: ERICA CAPABIANCA.
“Apathy was never an option; self-interest and altruism became one and the same. I advocate for my community, so I advocate for myself.”—Hari Nef
OCCUPATION: I’m an actor, model, and activist. Media outlets (including Interview) were calling me an activist before I called myself one. I was skeptical at first. I thought, “Hey, I’m not an activist, I’m just trans.” As my career progressed, so did my impact on trans discourse—a discourse I inherited. Apathy was never an option; self-interest and altruism became one and the same. I advocate for my community, so I advocate for myself.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGES? I can say with confidence that my trans/transfeminine identity emerges as the most heavily problematized aspect of my lived experience. My transness is not a problem on its own, but problematized by a society that reviles it, hates it, fails to understand it—or does not wish to.
WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS? We should be legally protected from employment and housing discrimination in all 50 states (and worldwide). We should be provided free access to lifesaving medical resources, and we should be able to legalize our transition at will. We should be legally entitled to use restrooms that align with our gender identities. We should not have to fear the hatred and aggression of loved ones, colleagues, or strangers—especially if they work for the government.
WHAT ARE YOU GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENTS? Last year, I graduated with departmental honors in Drama and Theatre Arts from Columbia University. Around the same time, I became the first openly transgender model in history to sign a modeling contract with IMG Worldwide. In December, I made my television debut as Gittel on Transparent and was nominated with the cast for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series at the SAG awards. In January, I walked the Gucci show in Milan. About a week ago, I formalized my affiliation with the National Center for Transgender Equality [transequality.org] as a representative and advocate. A lot has happened in a short time, but I think my greatest accomplishment is my continued will to live authentically. If you are trans and/or gender nonconforming, your (way of) life persists as a question in frequent need of answering. To answer the question with love and confidence—over and over—is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Trans is tough, but it’s beautiful.