In August 2015, Los Angeles became home to the world’s first transgender modelling agency, a momentous step in the fight for LGBT rights. Run by Cecilio Asuncion, who brought fame to five transgender women in his 2012 documentary What’s The T?, the agency looks to provide a safe, non-exploitative environment for aspiring trans models. Asuncion says that the agency has garnered interest from several prolific designers, and has already signed six models. The transgender community has generally been treated and viewed as inherently subhuman, a fact compounded by the fact that most transgender folks in India have to beg or perform sex work to earn their livelihood. Now all that is set to change, and it is up to us to make this a reality. 2015 was a memorable year for transgender rights- from the country’s first trans college principal, the first trans mayor, to transgender people being recognised as third gender in the University of Delhi, the trans movement has moved leaps and bounds, but there are still hurdles to overcome, especially in a nation that is so unabashedly transphobic. India’s first modelling agency for aspiring models from the transgender community hopes to erase the stigma attached with trans/non-binary people, and seeks to put trans folk in a place where they have never been before- fashion. Spearheaded by Rudrani Chhetri, the founder of Delhi-based LGBT+ charity, the Mitr Trust, this agency will be “run by transgenders, for transgenders.” Chhetri has set up a GoFundMe page where you can make donations to make this venture a success. Chhetri writes on the page, “this is an effort by the transgender community to improve our social and personal image, and to raise awareness about the serious issues of discrimination and marginalisation that we face.” For a community that is as ostracized and misunderstood as the transgender community, such an agency will be a beacon of hope, for it tells them that they have other means of earning their bread than by just selling their bodies. To achieve this, Chhetri will take the advice and expertise of Rishi Raj, a well-known fashion stylist and a member of the LGBT+ community himself. First, Chhetri and Raj will conduct an audition, in which aspiring trans models from all over the country will be welcomed to participate. Based on their performances, five models will be selected, and will have the chance to work with a top fashion photographer, who will help them with their portfolios and launch them into the national fashion scene. The Mitr trust has a target of £5000 (over Rs 4, 89,000), which will go towards basic necessities like hiring a photographer, renting a venue, and other expenses. To help, you can head to the Mitr Trust’s GoFundMe page, and donate in whatever capacity you can. ———— ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This article is written by Harshita Narasimhan.