By Danaé Reid
Corwin M. is a 22-year-old Black queer trans femme model from New York and is passionate about advocating for the rights of queer and Black persons. Understanding that queerness is not indicative of a general experience, I decided to get in touch with them to learn a bit more about them, their personal experience in the queer community, and some ways we can bridge the glaring gap in our community.
DR: When you introduced yourself to me, you stated that you’re a non-binary, Black queer trans femme model. Can you break down what all of these things mean for/to YOU and also speak to why these pieces of your identity are how you introduce yourself first.
CM: The intersections of my identity make up all of me, which are the best parts of me. Being non-binary, for me, is about my connection to my gender or lack thereof, really. I do not subscribe to toxic masculinity, hyper masculinity, or “being a man” in the societal or stereotypical sense, and I never really ever did. I have never felt like I’ve had a fixed gender identity, and instead I feel more like an entity. Maybe like a genderless pretty blob, or an orb of light in the comical sense. I exist in this form and I empower myself by being pretty.
As a femme, it’s all about existing outside of traditional femininity, subverting that aforementioned femininity, with there being no specific box to fit as a femme. Think of celebrating and refiguring femininity as all the same. It’s an identity versus a descriptor.
DR: The Black queer community is so diverse, and although we’re seeing less erasure in that regard, representation of the queer community remains skewed toward certain types of people. How do you propose we change this so that the media can reflect the Black queer community in an accurate way?
CM: We need to continue having and furthering the discussion of anti-blackness, colorism, and tokenism. Stop casting LGTBQIA+ people for things solely because you need an inclusivity grab, and instead start questioning how you show up and work to support us and put us on.
We deserve a seat at the table, too, but we also need to make our spaces and places versus focusing on what we are denied access from. I also feel that Black people of all cultures in all complexions and shades deserve opportunities and visibility, and the media needs to give us proper platforms to tell our own stories. Eurocentric standards of beauty are tired and so are we. Blackness is beautiful.
DR: What about Black queer existence are you most passionate about?
CM: The solidarity I’ve built with my sisters. The amount of support I get from members of my community is absolutely, positively unparalleled to anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. Going out somewhere with a Telfar bag for instance and striking up conversation with another Black queer. Serving a look and hearing others like you shower you in love, affection, and attention; I love that. It’s like the best inside secret I’ve ever had because only we know what it is, only we know what’s up, and only we know what’s hip. It’s ours. That’s one of my favorite things about blackness as well.
DR: How can people outside of the LGBTQIA+ community be a resource and furthermore, how can they better understand you and your amazing identities?
CM: Education is the root of everything. Seek out independent resources online aside from LGBTQIA+ people you know in real time. Read about queer theory and gender studies. No one is required to tell you anything or help you understand anything. The willingness to be fallible and accept it while also being receptive enough to receive constructive criticism from those you harm when you do wrong is important, because you will. You will inevitably misgender someone, you will inevitably misspeak and be ignorant, but as anyone privileged as a cishet, you need to listen to the voices of the oppressed. Open your ears and close your mouth. Stop centering yourselves. And don’t be afraid to ask questions or to be wrong. If you don’t know a person’s pronouns, never assume. Ask! Asking for pronouns versus using ones you think to assign to someone based on presentation is unwise. They/them is a failsafe when you don’t know, but if clarification is given then you should respect that.
DR: As a non-binary, Black queer trans femme model, how has the industry been to you? How have you been treated on sets? Has anyone ever made you feel validated or invalidated on set? Tell us about this experience.
CM: Modeling has been fun, but there is never any shortage of ignorance on set or during casting. It would be utterly naive to say or expect to not be misgendered, let alone respected as sometimes you’re the “representation.” If it pays, it pays. Some of us can’t afford to miss no meals.
Like anyone else I cannot stress enough that exposure is not payment and that clout does not pay bills. I’ve worked with indie designers and small businesses who always put up a check and bigger, more virtually acclaimed brands who cannot even offer their models pennies. It sets a really negative precedent that I would like to see less of.
DR: Do you remember the first time that you felt fully free to be exactly who you are? What was that moment like for you? How do you continue to tap into that everyday?
CM: I do. I got into the queer nightlife scene in New York City two or so years ago. I met a friend at Elsewhere in Brooklyn prior to a concert I had tickets for. They told me they were DJ’ing and to go to one of their sets sometime. I did later on attend a set of theirs, and after their invitation and debriefing, I attended a party that was thrown by an amazing queer collaborative they are a part of called DISCAKES. Everyone’s always dressed to the nines in conceptual garments and makeup looks. It’s so cool. Everyone is so friendly and approachable, and the space always feels so secure. A true safe haven for the girls, gays, and theys. To occupy space in a room full of other sparkly, glittery, beautiful and fully realized identities, people, and personalities made me feel right at home. I knew this was exactly where I was supposed to be, with others just like me. A powerful sense of belonging surged in me ever since.
DR: The same term can and often does mean something different from person to person, which is why it’s so important to continue educating ourselves on difference and being receptive to change and new information, yet a lot of people find it difficult to ask the “hard questions” and it starts at home.
That said, as a non-binary, Black queer trans femme model, what advice would you give parents who are trying to explain sex, gender, etc. to their young child? How early do you think we should start having these conversations? And how do you think it would change the world if we did?
CM: Early enough. Educate children on the fact that everyone is different and that not everyone is necessarily a boy or a girl either. Not everyone is straight and it is unfair to assume such. Children are more astute and more in tune with themselves than people like to think or admit. Remember that as a parent, it is not your decision to police someone else’s identity. I would advise parents to not have children if they aren’t able to support them and love them unconditionally. Be a body. Be a resource. Be compassionate, loving, and understanding.