Photo courtesy of Erin Sommer Tenorio
Barneys New York launched its Spring 2014 campaign called Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters, which supports transgender equality. Debuted on Jan. 29, the revolutionary campaign is the first for Barneys department stores.
Bruce Weber, known for his work on ad campaigns for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, shot the photographs in New York City. The black and white photos are clearly fashion focused, but the expressions of the transgender models give the images of strength and complexity.
There are 17 remarkable stories about transgendered people included in the ad campaign: Arin Andrews, Edie Charles, Valentijn de Hingh, Ashley de la Cruz, Sawyer Devuyst, Peche Di, Dezjorn Gauthier, Trevon Haynes, Katie Hill, Eve Lindley, Niki M’nray, Ryley Pogensky, Ines Rau, May Simon, Ahya Taylor, Maxie Neu and Gisele Xtravaganza. The vast array of diversity among their stories creates a new and refreshing face for Barneys New York’s Spring 2014 campaign.
The National Center for Transgender Equality and the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Community Center support the campaign to break down stereotypes and educate the populous with diverse and individualized stories. By bringing the issue down to a more personal level, this opens up dialogue among Americans that open up doors of opportunity and create a clear understanding of the uniqueness of every human being.
Erin Sommer Tenorio, a former Pepperdine student who is transgender, commented on Barneys’ new campaign: “It’s really cool. I like how it shows the different aspects of models. It normalizes it all.”
As a transgendered person, she struggled with the discrimination and bullying she experienced at Pepperdine. “People would message me about how they disapproved of my lifestyle or that I’m going to hell.”
Tenorio says even the university’s administration created an isolating experience. Transsexuals who wish to live on campus are forced into single dorms or in a double room alone. Most are put in George Page. “You have to pay more for an apartment because you cannot have a roommate. It feels lonely and you are literally cut off from everything,” Tenorio said.
According to the Dean of Student Affairs, Mark Davis, each student’s experience is unique so they work with the student to make “appropriate changes” to campus housing. Under Pepperdine’s discrimination and harassment policy, transgender students are covered, but how much? The discrimination, harassment, and sexual misconduct policy states: “All members of our community are created in the image of God and therefore should be treated with dignity and respect…we respect the inherent worth of each member of the community and do not engage in any forms of harassment.”
However, Pepperdine does offer the Vinci and Ellsworthe Endowed Scholarship for any Seaver student with financial need who has demonstrated a commitment to the health and wellness of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community.
Still, the university has refused to grant official status to ReachOUT, an LGBT club, as an official club. Students supporting ReachOUT have even filed a petition to gain an official status, but ultimately were unsuccessful.
Discrimination against transgendered people is part of the reason Barneys New York has created a program in which customers can donate to these organizations to further their ability to help strengthen and widen the transgender community by bridging the gap between transgendered people and non-transgendered people. According to the Barneys New York’s website, “Barneys New York donated 10 percent of all sales from its 11 flagship stores nationwide and Barneys.com on Tues. Feb.11 to the LGBT Community Center in New York City and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Total proceeds will be divided evenly between the two charities.”
Expanding the scope of the donation program to include online participation provides an opportunity for all Americans to reach out and shop for a cause. Any excuse to shop is a good excuse.
Pepperdine has an LGBT Legal Society as a part of the law school. According to LGBT legal society’s website, the LGBT Legal Society exists to discuss LGBT-related legal issues and to provide a networking forum for legal employment and professional development purposes. It is open to students, faculty and staff, but only those in the law school.
There is no LGBT club at Seaver College, which leaves students where, exactly? The fight for human rights should not be limited to religion, race and ethnicity. Without an open forum for at the very least discussion, the student body will be left uneducated.
Tenorio lends some advice to those who are transgendered at Pepperdine: “Don’t tell just anyone. There are a lot of closed-minded people. Don’t be ashamed, just be careful who you share with.”
Also, for those who are unsure how to act around their transgendered peers, Tenorio’s No. 1 rule is don’t ask about surgery.
“It’s rude. Not everyone is born the same way. Everyone has a flaw or something they don’t like about themselves. It’s not something you can help.”
Tenorio is a successful transgendered model as she continues her modeling career.
She first started as a hair model and as she grew more confident in her modeling ability, she moved onto the catwalk. When asked if being transgendered was an issue, she responded confidently that she usually gets paid more for being a transgendered model because of the strong and unique features she possesses.
“Photographers are usually very creative and artsy people and they even encourage transgendered models because of their strong features,” Tenorio said.
Pepperdine should follow Barneys’ example. Let’s talk about transgendered individuals. Let’s welcome them with open arms and share their stories. Just like with anyone’s life story, there is a lesson to be learned.
To read these remarkable stories from the Spring campaign click here. Stay educated and stay classy, Pepperdine.
Follow Jacklyn Maza on Twitter: @jbizzmazzz
As published in the Feb. 13 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.