the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Chella Man

Chella Man: (Role) Model

November 19, 2018

Recently named one of the Out 100, Chella Man is taking the nation by storm. He describes himself as “a 19 year old, Deaf, genderqueer artist on testosterone who is currently a student in New York City for the intersections of art, design, and computer science.”  But that’s just the beginning. He recently made headlines as he became the first Deaf, transgender model to be signed with the modeling agency IMG. His modeling has taken him everywhere from the runway at New York fashion week to an ad campaign with Gap.

When I first found Chella Man and his work, I was so inspired. I am always happy to see other trans folks thriving, and he is a perfect example of that. I remember sitting down and watching all of his YouTube videos documenting his transition and his life. I was so thankful to have someone like him living out and proudly. I’m inspired not only by his work for the trans community, but also his work for the Deaf community.

As a model myself, I know how difficult the modeling industry can be. We are already hyper-critical of model’s bodies, and trans models are no exception. I almost felt additional pressure as a trans model to be above and beyond, because I knew that I was representing a community that has little visibility. Chella Man and the work he is doing is so important, and that’s why I was elated to talk to him about his life and experiences. Read his responses below, and be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

On the modeling industry

Everything lies within a continuum, including the types of personalities, corporations, and mindsets one may find within the modeling industry.

In this day and age, my body and identity are political. Not because I choose to talk about politics; conversely, I exist within the controversy. For my own safety, I have to choose the businesses I work with carefully. I will always look into backgrounds, business morals and goals to ensure this. I have occasionally had to turn down a jobs with large corporations due to my findings. Many of my queer friends who have experience in this industry do the same. I believe this process is imperative for any queer individual to do, regardless of what industry they are entering.

Thanks to this filter, I rarely encounter hate, unsafe spaces, and/or aggression within my work.

On what people get wrong about him

To list all the microaggressions I have received aimed at one or more of my identities would be infinite.

Can Deaf people drive?

A: Yes, in fact, many studies show Deaf individuals are better drivers than hearing due to the lack of noise distractions

Have you gotten THE surgery yet?

A: First, do not ask this. It is not your business what their genitals have been through. Now, not all transgender individuals choose to get “bottom surgery” and this does not take anything away from their valid identities.

You don’t LOOK Jewish though?

A: Jews can look like anyone. To say this is a general comparison to an old stereotype.

On Trans Awareness Week

This week recognizes our community, which is long overdue. Transgender individuals have ALWAYS existed but are rarely given the acceptance and platforms we deserve, let alone CELEBRATED in the public eye.

Trans Awareness Week is a holiday in which we all take after the words of Miss Major: “We’re still fucking here.”

Shane Henise is a Campaigns Manager at GLAAD. He focuses on creating campaigns that highlight and support the trans community. Shane recently received his Ed.M from Teachers College, Columbia University.

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