Jul 25, 2015

Caroline Cossey, Playboy's first transgender model, issues stark warning to Caitlyn Jenner about 'rushing' her transition

She's the first: Caroline Cossey was the first openly transgender woman to appear in Playboy. Having already done one shoot in 1981, she posed again in 1991, nearly a decade after News of the World exposed her
As the first transgender woman to have her own pictorial in Playboy, Caroline Cossey has broken boundaries and fought tirelessly for the transgender community. And while she is thrilled by the outpouring of love and support for Caitlyn Jenner, the former Bond girl has admitted that she is worried the reality star is moving too fast with her transition.

When Caitlyn made her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair in June, unfounded rumors that she had already undergone gender reassignment surgery began to swirl. But as a transgender woman who went through countless and lengthy psychological evaluations before she completed her transition, Caroline has admitted to Daily Mail Online that she is 'praying [Caitlyn] hasn't had surgery' just yet.
'She looks amazing,' Caroline said. 'But everything is being done in such a rushed hurry

Guidelines for sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) vary from country to country, and Caroline explained that a candidate typically has to undergo psychological testing, and wait at least a year before being approved for sexual reassignment surgery.

However, she imagines that someone with extreme wealth, like Caitlyn, would be able to find a way to bypass these requirements.

Recalling the detailed and incredibly personal questioning she had to undergo before being able to proceed with gender reassignment surgery, Caroline explained that during Caitlyn's powerful interview with Diane Sawyer in April, the athlete, who maintained she is attracted to women, was not asked whether she got sexually aroused when dressing in women's clothes.

'That's the first thing they asked,' she said of starting the SRS process. 'They try to deter you from surgery.'

Caroline said there is a huge difference between being transgender and being a transvestite, and while there is 'absolutely nothing wrong' with being a transvestite, confusion can lead to a painful surgery and a lifetime of regret.

'She is beautiful. She looks amazing,' Caroline said of Caitlyn. 'I just want to make sure she is not going down the wrong road.'

Caroline is not only protective of Caitlyn, she is worried about the countless others who may be rushing into SRS as a result of the increased public awareness about transgender people.
Read more: The 60-year-old is now promoting the release of her memoir, My Story, as an e-bookRead more: The 60-year-old is now promoting the release of her memoir, My Story (pictured), as an e-book
The 60-year-old is now promoting the release of her memoir, My Story (right), as an e-book
Innocent child: Caroline was born Barry Cossey (pictured) in Norfolk, England and raised as male 
Innocent child: Caroline was born Barry Cossey (pictured) in Norfolk, England and raised as male

'I am very concerned about the people who are following and rushing into things without getting the right counseling,' she explained.

Ultimately, Caroline said she wants Caitlyn to be happy, and while the I Am Cait star hasn't reached out to her, she said she would love to share her experience and answer any questions she might have.

'You can't just go from playing the male role for 65 years, and then go to being a female and expect for it to fall into place,' she said.

'The most important thing she's got - and I was very touched by this - she has got a loving [and] supportive family. That's what kept me stable, and that's what will keep her stable.'

Caroline recently spoke with Playboy about her experience after decades of silence, as well as the initial shock she felt when Caitlyn came out as a transgender woman. However, the interview was conducted before Bruce transitioned to Caitlyn, and she referred to her using her former name and male pronouns.

'I hope she wasn't offended by anything that was in Playboy,' Caroline said earnestly. 'That interview was done before she came out. I wouldn't be that disrespectful. She deserves the respect to be Caitlyn now.'

While she candidly shared her concerns about Caitlyn, Caroline was just as quick to offer praise for her.

Caroline found Caitlyn's Vanity Fair cover to be 'beautiful', noting that she liked how 'she embraced the old glamour of Hollywood' when she posed in an ivory corset.
Happy times: Caroline (left) is pictured wearing her sister Pam's swimsuit when she was a young boy 
Happy times: Caroline (left) is pictured wearing her sister Pam's swimsuit when she was a young boy 
Difficult adolescence: Caroline said that when she was younger (pictured), she identified as male because of her genitalia. As a teenager (right) she was bullied because of her femininityDifficult adolescence: Caroline said that when she was younger, she identified as male because of her genitalia. As a teenager (pictured) she was bullied because of her femininity
Difficult adolescence: Caroline said that when she was younger (left), she identified as male because of her genitalia. As a teenager (right) she was bullied because of her femininity

The former model also said she was moved to tears by Caitlyn's powerful and inspiring speech at the ESPY Awards, however, she did find herself feeling a bit left out.

During the speech Caitlyn mentioned famous members of the transgender community, including former tennis star Renée Richards, Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, and Janet Mock.

'I was a bit hurt she never mentioned me,' Caroline said honestly. 'Maybe she never heard of me and my struggles and what I had gone through.'

In the 1980s, Caroline spent eight years and $20,000 of her own money fighting with the European Court of Human Rights for the right to change your gender on the document.

However, Caroline considered that because a great deal of her activism was done in the UK Caitlyn probably hasn't heard her story.

'Compared to her and her accomplishments in life I am really nobody,' she said of Caitlyn's countless awards.
However, Caroline revealed that she was recently contacted by transgender model Andreja Pejić
Before and after: Caroline can be seen before she got breast implants (pictured), and posing for Playboy in 1991, nearly two decades after she underwent gender reassignment surgeryBefore and after: Caroline can be seen before she got breast implants, and posing for Playboy (pictured) in 1991, nearly two decades after she underwent gender reassignment surgery
Before and after: Caroline can be seen before she got breast implants (left), and posing for Playboy (right) in 1991, nearly two decades after she underwent gender reassignment surgery 
Sexy shoot: Caroline first appeared in Playboy in 1981, before she was out as transgender
Sexy shoot: Caroline first appeared in Playboy in 1981, before she was out as transgender

'[Andreja] is doing a documentary and she said I had been her idol growing and she said she would be honored if I would be in it,' Caroline said. 'I am sitting with it. I am taking small steps quite honestly.'

And while Caroline hasn't made a decision as to whether or not she will appear in the documentary film about the model's transition from man to woman, which is entitled Andrej(A), she was immensely honored by the offer.

'I was thinking: "Oh my God. How sweet? How absolutely sweet!"'

Caroline noted that Andreja is beautiful, but more importantly, said that she appears totally comfortable with herself.

'That is important, and why shouldn't she be [confident]?' she said.

Andreja has followed in Caroline's footsteps as a pioneer for transgender people, breaking numerous boundaries as a model; she recently became the first transgender woman to land a major cosmetics campaign.

'Isn't if fabulous?' Caroline said of Andreja's being the new face of beauty brand Make Up For Ever.

'Whether she is transgender is unimportant,' Caroline added. 'She is beautiful. She is doing Vogue. It is totally irrelevant. It is a different mindset today. Let's get rid of the labels.'

After years of shying away from the spotlight, Caroline has re-entered the public realm while promoting the release of her e-book memoir, My Story.
Earning the dough: Caroline saved up for her own sexual reassignment surgery in 1974, because the wait-list to have it paid for would have taken years
Earning the dough: Caroline saved up for her own sexual reassignment surgery in 1974, because the wait-list to have it paid for would have taken years

When Caroline realized that hardcover copies of her 1992 memoir were going for upwards of $4,000 on eBay and Amazon, she decided she wanted to make her story more accessible to everyone.

'Not many people read the hardbacks,' she said of her decision to re-release My Story as an e-book.

'It's really about the journey I had and the obstacles I faced,' she said, noting: 'There is still a lot of ignorance.'

Caroline admitted that she has heard countless horror stories from transgender men and women who were shunned by their families - or worse.

'There is still a lot of work to be done,' she said.

Caroline's desire to make a difference and support the transgender community has never ebbed despite the years she spent hidden from the public eye.

She recently created her first Facebook account, so she can share stories and support transgender people like herself.

Caroline said she spends two hours every morning just corresponding with people, answering their questions, and helping connect them with the right counselors and surgeons.
Take a look: She said she chose to appear in Playboy to show all the 'jocks' who read the magazine that a transgender woman could be sexy 
Take a look: She said she chose to appear in Playboy to show all the 'jocks' who read the magazine that a transgender woman could be sexy 

She recently opened up to Cosmopolitan.com all about her her struggles with transitioning - and the bigoted people she came up against.

Caroline said that when she was little, she identified as male because she had a penis. But as she got older, she realized that she preferred dressing up and playing with dolls over anything her brother was doing. This meant that, as a teenager named Barry, she was bullied.

While she was already starting to feel more like a girl than a boy, it wasn't until she took a sex education class that she realized she was attracted to boys, not girls. She thought that she must be gay, though admitted 'that wasn't right for me either'.

As she grew more, she started letting her hair grow longer, but found that the gay men she was attracted to didn't like her back and preferred men who actually looked like boys. Gay clubs wouldn't even let her in, she said, because they thought she was a drag queen. She only first made the connection that she was transgender after meeting another transgender person for the first time.

Caroline wanted to transition, which she could do for free under the UK's national health care system. But there was a catch. First, she'd have to be evaluated by a psychiatrist.

Then, she'd have to wait two years for her surgery to be approved - after which she'd have to wait what could be another two years before getting to the top of the wait list for the procedure.

Though she wanted to get her surgery legally, she couldn't stand waiting that long - which meant she'd have to raise the money on her own.
Feeling ashamed: When she was exposed in a British tabloid, Caroline attempted to commit suicide 
Feeling ashamed: When she was exposed in a British tabloid, Caroline attempted to commit suicide 

So she started saving while working as a showgirl, during which time she was always billed as a woman - not a transgender or transsexual person.

First, Caroline earned enough money to get breast implants, thanks to an unexpected windfall. She explained that a man told her that his rich friend 'would pay anything to see that someone like me exists' - and he followed through on that promise, netting Caroline enough cash to enhance her figure.

And it wasn't the only time she was paid for having a unique body. Once, Caroline said, she fell in love with a man and followed him to Kuwait, where he showered her with gifts like jewelry, dresses, and a penthouse apartment. However, the man told her that if they continued the relationship, she couldn't have her SRS procedure, and she wasn't ready to sacrifice it and they split up.

After the break-up, in 1974, she finally raised enough money for the surgery by doing a striptease act in Rome - and that's also when the idea to model was first put into her head. People told her she should get into the business, and she quickly started working with an agency.

After landing a role in a James Bond film, Caroline was invited to pose for Playboy for the first time, appearing in the magazine in 1981.

However, the triumphant feeling over her stunning shoot was short-lived. In 1982, the now-defunct British tabloid News of the World spent 'a ton of money' to buy one of her old hospital files, which proved she she was born male.

'Once that happened, I went into hiding and even attempted suicide,' she said. 'I woke up in my bathroom in vomit. I just felt ashamed and embarrassed... And then at a certain point, I just got sick of being ashamed of something I'd never had any control over, which was my assigned gender.'
Up against ignorance: She also had to battle stereotypes, turning down 'gimmicky' roles - including an offensive beer ad 
Up against ignorance: She also had to battle stereotypes, turning down 'gimmicky' roles - including an offensive beer ad

Strong women: Caroline said Caitlyn Jenner is 'amazing', but noted she was a 'bit hurt' she wasn't mentioned during her ESPYs speech (left). Caroline has been asked to appear in Andreja Pejić's (right) documentary 

Unfortunately, when she was ready to work again, she was only being offered 'gimmicky' transsexual roles - including a beer ad that said: 'She's coming your way, but she's a he.'

She constantly came up against ignorance, like when Howard Stern interviewed her while dressed as a woman and said that he'd had surgery, too. He even joked about cutting off his penis and handed her a sausage.

'I just felt like, I don't need this. I need to keep my sanity. I've got somebody who loves me, and I don't want to continue in this circus, and I stopped my career right there,' she said.

Luckily, 'times have changed' since then. She went on to pose for Playboy again, this time earning her own pictorial in 1991. Naked save for a leopard scarf creatively wrapped around her, Caroline posed sensuously in the groundbreaking feature.

'I wanted to do it because I wanted to show all the jocks and heterosexual Playboy readers that transgender people could be sexy and attractive and help them lose the preconceived notions they had about us,' she said.

But while the photoshoot might not have happened if Caroline had male body parts, she said that she warns that having surgery might not be right for every transgender person.

'It took me such a long time to be able to get the surgery, and I'm glad I had that time to think about whether it was right for me,' Caroline, who is now happily married, said. 'Your gender is not about what's between your legs. I know many transgender people are bothered by genitals that don't match their gender identity, but I would like them to know that their genitalia doesn't define their gender.'