Caroline Cossey, Playboy magazine’s first transgender covergirl, is expressing gratitude to the magazine and it’s founder, Hugh Hefner, who recently died.
Cossey, a former Bond girl and supermodel, was outed in the tabloids in the 1980s and saw her career implode.
“I had fallen prey to the press who had outed me,” she said in interview with the Huffington post. “It destroyed my career as a successful international model.”
Cossey contacted Hefner at the encouragement of her agent, who “suggested reaching out to Playboy to see if they would be interested in doing a spread with me as I was out to prove that trans people can be sexy and attractive.”
“I had been featured in Playboy as a Bond girl without anyone knowing my past,” she said. “The second time could be part of my activism and visibility that I was heavily involved with.
She credits Hefner with validating her through his allyship in granting her the Playboy spread, which she believes served as a platform for transgender advocacy.
“Despite the enormous pressure he was under he decided to go ahead and run the spread as a feature in the U.S. worldwide and essentially became an ally for trans visibility and awareness.”
The question of Hefner’s legacy, however, is a fraught one: Did the mogul and arbiter of men’s taste subvert the cast of heteronormative gender roles for the 20th century with his magazine or make their valences more apparent?
Cossey believes the former is true:
“The worldwide reach of the photos and feature had significant impact in changing erroneous preconceived ideas that a lot of people had about the trans community.”
Cossey transitioned in 1974, undergoing gender confirmation surgery long before Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and shows like Transparent entered the mainstream consciousness, making today’s gender binary discussions de rigeur.
“I was probably so many years too early,” she said of her transition.
The magazine reprinted Cossey's 1991 spread in 2015.
“Every time something positive happens, I’m watching with my mouth open, gasping and thinking, ‘fabulous,” she said of today's progress.