Laith Ashley reveals shocking experiences of transphobia, urges cis gay men to call it out
Trans model Laith Ashley has spoken about the shocking transphobia he has experienced and has urged gay men in particular to do more to call it out.
The 29-year-old covered the October issue of Attitude alongside actor Gus Kenworthy for a sun-splashed photoshoot.
In an interview with the publication, the trailblazer highlighted both the abuse and fetishisation of trans people by cisgendered people, regardless of their sexuality.
In the candid interview, Laith sketched out an incident in West Hollywood when he encountered a group of three transphobic gay men. Citing it as a crucial example of transphobia within the LGB+ community.
Laith Ashley: “A lot of trans men tend to stay silent when they do experience violence.”
“I haven’t personally experienced physical violence,” he said to Attitude editor-in-chief Cliff Joannou, “but I have been disrespected and mis-gendered by people both within and outside our community.
“There was one situation about 18 months ago in West Hollywood where a guy was just really disrespectful. I was with a friend, waiting for an Uber and I looked over and noticed a group of three gay men talking and they kept whispering to each other, looking over at me.
— Laith Ashley (@laith_ashley) September 12, 2019
“One of the guys gets up and I notice him coming towards me and he says, ‘Oh, so those guys over there said that you’re a woman. Is that true?’
“I thought: ‘What did you say to me?’ And he was like, ‘Oh, it is true. Yeah, that’s a woman.'”
He added: “I was enraged but I knew I couldn’t react.
“However, violence does happen and because there is, at times, a need to be viewed as hyper-masculine, as male, and to be respected as a man, a lot of trans men tend to stay silent when they do experience violence from a partner, because it’s something that is expected to happen only to women.
“And if it does happen to a man, they ‘should be able to handle it’.
“That way of thinking is a product of toxic masculinity.”
Trans model: “It took some time for me to get used to navigating the world as a male person of colour.”
Ashley also amplified his experiences of racism and how his journey as a trans man has been impacted by it.
“If I was wearing maybe shorts, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap, on my way to the gym, the police would start treating me differently and with more aggression than I was treated prior to my transition.
“That’s a little bit scary and it took some time for me to get used to navigating the world as a male person of colour.
“My brother told me that he would be harassed by the police a lot because of his complexion, and I was like, ‘Really?’ Until it started happening to me.
“This is the reality of the world that we live in. I always feel I have to mention that because I can now see things from a different perspective.”
Who is Laith Ashley ?
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Four years ago, Ashley, a Harlem, New York local, was signed by Trans Models, the city’s first trans modelling agency.
Beforehand, he did social work at local LGBT+ centres while taking on modelling gigs, such as being part of Barneys New York’s Spring 2014 campaign, Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters.
The campaign, launched on their online magazine The Window, exclusively featured trans and non-binary models. It was shot by legendary photographer Bruce Weber
But it was a few snaps in his Calvin Klein briefs, shot by Nelson Castillo, that boosted him into the spotlight. The Instagram shots received immersive black from transphobes, which made Ashely dip into depression and nearly delete, until they were reposted by famed trans activist and actor Laverne Cox.
He rose the runway ranks – going onto walk in New York Fashion Week in Spring/Summer 2019 – as he emerged as a household name.
Ashley made a brief appearance on the FX TV show, Pose as well as being the first trans male model in the Pit Crew on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The October issue of Attitude magazine is out now.