Interview & Styling by Juliann McCandless // Photography by Katrin Braga
Xandra, 19, Model / ShopGirl
So, it was such a pleasure to work with you recently. You exude confidence on and off camera, were you always so confident?
Thanks. No and up until now I still work on my confidence. I think I come across really confident and extroverted when I'm doing what I love or when I'm with close friends but I'm actually super nervous and self conscious about things these days I have no idea why.
We all get a little nervous or self-conscious sometimes, for sure. How did you find your confidence?
I'd say when I was younger I was super oblivious to everything around me (still am a bit), so I just walked through life being one-hundred percent who I was all the time, which is amazing for a young person who never fit in a gender binary. So I'd say now that I am more aware of myself I'm not always as confident but definitely stronger as a person... If that makes any sense.
Yeah it does, you also seem VERY comfortable on camera, Is this the case? How do you achieve this? Do you think the fact that you are trans adds to your comfort in your own skin or vice versa?
Honestly the second I transitioned I was comfortable in my own skin, and I've never had surgery so its just coming to terms with my own gender that set me free. As a young child I never took my clothes off, never let anyone see me naked, never wanted to see myself naked. Now I run around the house naked all the time, it's amazing. Though I think I've always been comfortable in front of a camera ;)
Hell ya girl. I think you are so inspiring, to be so young and to have figured yourself out so much. Are there any trans women who inspire you?
All trans women inspire me! I don't have nearly enough trans friends who are women. Every time I see a transgender woman in the streets I get excited and want to hug her and tell her my whole life journey and hear hers, it's weird but it's a special bond you can't have with anyone else. Lavern cox and Janet mock are huge celebrity inspirations, of course.
Has there been anyone in your life who has been particularly supportive or helpful?
My whole family has been amazing. My mother, sister and grandmother. My sister was 11 when I transitioned and she was probably the only one in my family who never messed up my pronouns or my name change. It's crazy how some people think something like transitioning is too hard for a child to understand because I actually think it's easier for a developing brain to understand than one that's set in its ways already. Right? Doesn't that make sense.
Ya, that totally makes sense actually.. I've never thought about that. So, when did you know that you were transgender or when did you start feeling like this?
Ok so basically when I was fourteen years old my best friend and I traveled down to Olympia Washington (aka the queerest city ever) for queer rock camp. At the time we both identified with bisexual and I remember being very set in my gender at the time. I thought, it being a queer rock camp was gonna be a lot of gay kids dancing and shit but turned out to be a lot of queer and trans punks. Queue 'A Whole New World'. It kinda changed me forever, I never saw so many young trans kids let alone trans people in general. So I came back crushing hard on this punk trans dude Liam. Next year we went back and I came back from that trip identifying as gender queer. Fast forward two years to seventeen and I knew I was fully a women and I needed to live as the person I actually was.
When did you begin transitioning? Can you tell me a bit about your experience transitioning?
I began transitioning at seventeen years old, It was always a super easy experience for me, I went to an alternative high school called Windsor House and everyone there is super open minded and no one gave two shits, I was still the same kid. Which is pretty dope. I started hormones a few months later and i haven't had any huge changes other than I cry a lot more, which is amazing. I was working part time at the time and didn't feel comfortable coming out at work, so for like four months I lived as a girl at school and I guess as a boy at work and that was probably the most damaging and stressful time of my transition. I also was dancing ballet and had to dance a recital as a male role and that was horrible. Now I can't imagine how I would even let myself go through that but I guess that's what transition means.
Wait crying IS amazing! Have you already or do you plan on fully transitioning in terms of surgery?
Surgery, of any kind is my number one biggest fear in this world so I'm not at all thinking about any surgeries for a long time lol.
In terms of society- have you seen a shift in opinion or acceptance when it comes to being transgender?
Definitely, I think people are starting to understand the gender conversation. Gender & sex are different things that don't have to align and that sexuality has nothing to do with someones gender. I definitely think gender is the main topic at this point, everyones down with the gays now people are trying to figure out all the many terms that fall under the gender umbrella: transgender, cisgender, Agender, gender queer & intersex. Hopefully Asexual will become the next topic because i think a lot of mainstream people don't know that thats even one of the options lol.
K so, recently I feel like Caitlyn Jenner has brought transgender awareness into extreme mainstream.. how do you feel about that?
Well, I love that older trans women who transition later in life can have someone like them celebrated. I think thats amazing, so of course I'm thankful for her huge success. On the other hand I've heard she's a republican.. which aint cool, but I have no clue i don't keep up to date with that family.
We kind of already touched on this but is your sexuality connected to your feelings of gender?
Yes and no, I would say when i was fourteen and just starting to figure out my gender i noticed that I was only attracted to straight men and gay women, so yes it partially helped my understand my gender. No because they're both fluid and could change anytime.
Cool. Do you think that people treat you differently on set? I remember you told me you modeled when you were young, it’s so cool you've modeled as both a male and female. Are there differences in experience when in those different roles?
I think I've pretty much had similar treatment in both scenarios. I'm always the more interesting character, some people love it some people don't care for it cause I'm not the conventional beauty. When i was like fourteen I was the gender bending young kid with big curly hair, now i'm the transgender model. Something we don't really have in my town.
What do you like about modeling?
Honestly I just live being able to feel beautiful. Modeling isn't just about being beautiful of course I love the acting role that comes with it but sometimes you just want to feel like a diva 'laughs'. Then there is the political side of modeling where it's like, we fucking need more trans models, more black models, more Indian models more aboriginal models etc. I think I represent a few things that the industry needs more of so It's kind of my job to represent the people of my background and community.
Do you think you can affect positive change via your work and do you want to?
I'm always thinking about how I can make a difference and that's a hard one. A lot of models are always saying how they want to be role models but just being beautiful isn't being a role model, it takes more than that. Definitely as a LG(B)(T) individual I have an opportunity to make a difference for my community. Especially as a mixed raced trans woman I need to inspire girls like me that they can be anything they want. They are smart, beautiful and that they're voices and their lives matter.
If you could reach out to other transgender people, what would you like to say to them?
Never for one second doubt that because your sex doesn't allign with your gender that you are not a woman/man/etc. You are who you know you are and the second you fully believe that, everyone else will. Ever since I got over being awkward and nervous about transitioning I've been one-hundred percent problem free, no one fucking cares because I don't.
You are a strong young person- what do you have to say to kids of your generation in general?
To kids younger than me I would say it gets better, lol I know you've all heard that before but IT'S SO TRUE! Queer or not. I can't believe how just waiting out a few unhappy years of my life has benefited me. Yes I was suicidal at fifteen and sixteen, hated my life, hated the way I looked, thought I had no future. Get yourself someone to talk to, get yourself help, meds, whatever you need to get through those rough years and you'll come out fucking fantastic. I have my lows still of course but growing up, you grow out of all those weird things you hated and you blossom. Just stay strong.
This is so true, for real. What are your personal goals?
I just wanna keep working with different artists. I love collaborations, shoots, film and acting. Probably going to start my own agency or magazine in the future. Would love to make a film soon as well. Modeling is the best I'll take that as far as that goes but unless you're naomi campbell or karlie kloss you gotta have that back up!
Thanks so much for talking to us and being so candid with me, you're such an inspiring strong person and it's great to get a chance to talk to you.. Any last words or anything you wanna say we didn't cover already?
Just that this has been a real positive & creative experience working with you and Katrin. Definitely my best work yet. Thank you :)