Comment: 'Respect Yourself and be Proud': Andreja Pejić's guidance

Model Andreja Pejić recently out publicly as a transgender woman.

World renown Australian supermodel Andreja Pejić has come out as a Trans-woman, offering hope and support to transgender youth.

A couple of weeks ago a rather profound event happened for the Transgender community both within Australia and around the world that resulted in more than a few tears of happiness coming from my eyes.

In a very brave and considered move, the world renown 22-year old Australian supermodel Andreja Pejić came out to the world as being a young, post-operative Trans-woman within the American media, to mostly positive reviews.

Now while Andreja (formerly Andrej) has been famous for years due to her willingness and ability to model both masculine and feminine clothes in an androgynous manner, I've always been amazed by the level of composure and maturity that she's shown within the media in general, rather than her unique ability to win over every catwalk that she's ever graced around the world.

“As a transgender woman I hope to show that after transition (a life-saving process) one can be happy and successful in their new chapter without having to alienate their past.”

That's because when you take into consideration the fact that as a refugee who came to Australia as a child from the war-torn former Yugoslavia, there's a heart-wrenching beauty and tone to her story that's outshone any of the perceived controversies that have surrounded her throughout her time within the public spotlight.

But while a person of Andreja's stature could have come out in any which way that they pleased, the fact that she decided to do so in a manner which will undoubtedly inspire other Transgender youth to be themselves is the mark of someone who's not only comfortable within their own skin, but deeply in touch with their own humanity as well.

"To all trans youth out there, I would like to say respect yourself and be proud of who you are. All human beings deserve equal treatment no matter their gender identity or sexuality”, she said in a joint press release with GLAAD, which is a prominent LGBTI human rights association within North America.

“To be perceived as what you say you are is a basic human right."

Now having been trapped in a seemingly never ending tunnel of fear, anxiety, frustration, pain and despair prior to making concrete steps of my own to Transition over recent years, I can say with utmost honesty and confidence that Andreja knows what she's talking about when it comes to being one's true self.

That's because while I now openly view my gender dysphoria and recent transition as a gift, it wasn't until I started having pride in who I am as a person and the self-respect that comes with it that I was able to move on from the tunnel of emotions that were sucking me down, further and further into the empty shell of a person that I'd become.

Now in all honesty, there's no way that anyone can live within such an existence and hope to make a better life for themselves on their own.  As I quickly found out when I made the decision to live and make a difference in my life, we all need support and stability in our lives from those around that care for us, in order to find out who we truly are and who we can become.

For me that was the cherished true friends and mentors that I've developed throughout my life, while for Andreja it's undoubtedly been the overwhelming support that she's received from her family amongst others. Throw in the support of groups such as The Gender Centre and GLAAD for each of us respectfully, and you've got all the hallmarks of people being able to find happiness and satisfaction within their lives.

Needless to say, having recently given my own affirmation both via helping to produce a short documentary on a small group of Transgender youth and delivering a speech about them to a room full of politicians within Parliament House in Canberra, I can see why Andreja chose to come out in the manner that she did.

While essentially baring the results of a lifetime full of emotions and changes and evolutions to a large group of supportive strangers was one of the most nerve-wracking things that I've ever done, it was also perhaps the most liberating, as it allowed people to understand how I experience the world from my shoes and hopefully learn how to help others avoid similar struggles to mine.

By embracing Trans youth in a way which highlights their humanity while coming out, I think that Andreja has made an invaluable investment both in these kids and the future that they can create for society going forward. 

While some people may call that leadership or activism, I think it's more so just the mark of a person who knows that transitioning and finding one's true self can be a much more joyous and less daunting affair when you've got truly genuine people around you to embrace life with. 

Needless to say, such messages of support and guidance are gifts that are well worth living.

Kate Doak is a freelance radio and cross-media journalist.

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