Milwaukee’s Dezjórn Gauthier Featured in Barneys New York Campaign
Dezjórn Gauthier (at center in photo) is a 22-year-old trans man who grew up in our fair city, attending Dominican High School and Marquette University. I had a chance to talk with him about his experiences modeling in the Barneys campaign and what it’s like to be trans in Milwaukee.
LAS: How did you get involved in the Barneys campaign?
DG: I was found on Instagram by JV8 Inc. They were the casting agency assigned to scout the models for the campaign. A simple little comment was posted underneath one of my pictures in October of 2013. At first I thought this was a joke, but I went ahead and sent an email back, and the next thing I know, I’m flying to New York City. [Note from Laura: you can follow Dezjórn on Instagram at @mr_gauthier]
LAS: Why was it important to you to participate in this campaign?
DG: It was important for me to participate in the campaign for multiple reasons. One was simply in support for the LGB and especially T community. Second, I wanted to share the story of being transgendered. I wanted to show the world that being transgendered is being human. I wanted other trans people to see our community do something big and not be afraid to go after their dreams. Lastly, I did it for myself. It was a way for me to “out” myself to my friends and family. It was hard for me to explain to my family, and the campaign and those involved really helped me do that. I also wanted to diversify my knowledge with others and Barneys had models from the U.S. and outside the country. Modeling has been something I’ve done since I was a child, but this time I got to do it for a cause, and be a male model. Many have told me never would I reach this elite level of modeling as a male. It’s been a dream of mine.
LAS: In your bio for the Barney’s campaign, you talk a bit about what it’s like to be a young trans person in Milwaukee. Can you say more about that?
DG: Being a transmale in Milwaukee is hard, but not impossible. There is a lack of knowledge here, but not necessarily a lack of support. The T in LGBT is the minority. When I touched upon this in my bio, I was speaking on resources available, clinics nearby and prices. Every trans person will have a struggle as far as name changes and such; that is a government issue and process. However, it has been very difficult for me to find the correct doctors that I need for my transition to get started and monitored. The trans community here is small or silent. With that being said, more people see the lesbian, bi and gay community than trans so the knowledge on the topic is also small or silent. Due to the lack of education on trans individuals in Milwaukee, we are often categorized in the wrong group. I am not a “stud,” “Tom-boy” or “lesbian”; I am a man. One advantage that I do have is having access to Tool Shed Toys, located on the east side of Milwaukee. The store has essential items (binders & packers) that I need being pre-op. Many only have online access to gender expression stores and have trouble with which brand/size is best for them.
LAS: How would you like to see Milwaukee change to be more welcoming and supportive of trans people? What recommendations do you have for Milwaukeeans who want to be allies to the trans community?
DG: As I stated earlier, every trans person will have some type of struggle; it can be good or bad. There are a lot of steps that need to be taken in transitioning, some easier than others. Transitioning in NYC is completely different than here in Wisconsin—look at the communities in each place and the lifestyles, politics, openness, economy. Some great steps Milwaukee can take toward reaching out for the trans community is to start with educating the public. Education is key! We must not make an image of “what a trans person is” as if there is only one type. [We need] more doctors with an understanding of transitioning, up-to-date WPATH Standards of Care and places to go for surgeries or prescriptions. State insurance coverage would also be a plus. For those who want to be allies, the main thing is just listen. Listen to the trans person’s needs. Educate yourself on differences between transgender and transsexual, lesbian and f-t-m, gay and m-t-f and queer [Note from Laura: one resource for definitions of such terms is the National Center for Transgender Equality ]. We are a community within a community.
Want to see more of Dezjórn and the Barneys campaign? The March 2014 issues of Vanity Fair and Vogue feature a pullout spread, and Barneys created a short video about the campaign.
Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.