Munroe Bergdorf is a woman on a mission. Since her gender transition at 24, the model and transactivist has been staunchly campaigning for transgender rights and driving the necessary conversation around transphobia: “people still refuse to see transgender women as women,” she says. Munroe has fronted a Christmas campaign for Illamasqua, created a Channel 4 documentary exploring gender and identity, and starred in a film created by Dazed magazine. Now she is adding another string to her bow as the face of lingerie line Valentine’s range.
You’re the new face of the Valentine’s campaign for Bluebella. Did you feel empowered to be modelling lingerie as a transgender woman?
Definitely. We’re seeing a different kind of women being included within the lingerie industry in a way we’ve not seen before, which I find incredible empowering. I’m not your typical lingerie model and I’m not particularly slim. This feels especially important since Ed Razak, the marketing executive at Victoria Secret, said he would not cast transwomen in the annual show because they can’t sell a fantasy. All women are a fantasy, and transwomen are living their own fantasy. It’s great to see female owned businesses supporting transpeople and actually putting what they preach into practise.
What changes would you want to make to the conversations we have around gender in our society?
The transmovement has definitely come a long the way in the last few years but I would definitely like to see more stories being shared about transmen and other binary people. If we look at the media, transmen seem to be less validated than transwomen. I would also like to see more support for transkids and the recognition that trans people are not a threat to anybody. If anything, we’re at more risk. People still refuse to see transgender women as women. Just because we cannot give birth or do not have periods doesn’t mean we are any less a woman than someone who can. I’d like to see less of this nonsense in 2019.
Do you think activism is the best way to push the conversation forward?
Activism is a great way to spark conversation that might not otherwise be had. Without activism, the trans movement wouldn’t be where it is today so I definitely think it’s necessary. However, it must be varied with lots of different viewpoints, not just one person giving their opinion. I also think it’s so important for young people, particularly transpeople to be clued up on politics, to ensure we get the rights we deserve. We can see from Trump’s transphobic policies how quickly things can change. This is why I speak up so passionately about transgender rights.
Do you ever experience online trolling and how do you deal with it?
I get trolled online every single day but it seems to get especially bad when I’ve been on TV. Twitter is the worst, people can be so vile, whereas there are less comments on Instagram. It’s mainly transphobic old men or women who think trans people are hindering the feminist cause when in reality it’s the complete opposite. To be honest though, I avoid reading the comments all together because which is a shame because you then miss all the lovely comments but all the nastiness just wears you down.
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Are there any celebrities who have openly supported you?
Lily Allen is a huge supporter. Whenever I get negative comments, she’s the first person to message me and show her support. Leomie Anderson and The Little Mix girls are also amazing.
Is beauty a form of empowerment for you?
Absolutely. Skincare particularly. Being trans and having problematic skin in my teens means I take great pride in looking after my skin. I particularly love the Korean approach to beauty and skincare. When you start taking hormones, your skin goes through a massive transformation, so skincare is a shared, universal experience amongst trans women. I’d recommend the Clinique ID jelly cleanser – I use it every morning and evening. I also love the Glossier exfoliating solution.
What ambitions do you have for your career in the next five/ten years?
I just want to continue what I’m doing, keep voicing my opinion, meeting inspirational people and keeping the trans conversation going. I’m going to be speaking at the Women of the World conference soon which will be great. I’d also like to travel more.
View the #LoveYourself campaign at https://www.bluebella.com/