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Laith Ashley on the Trans Experience, Tokenism, and Working with Taylor Swift

Laith Ashley on the Trans Experience, Tokenism, and Working with Taylor Swift

Laith Ashley

"Either I’m too visibly trans, or I'm not trans enough," Ashley shared.

Model, singer, and actor Laith Ashley opened up about his fitness journey, appearing in a Taylor Swift music video, and the intricacies of the trans experience in a revealing new interview.

The RuPaul's Drag Race"Pit Crew" member spoke to Men's Health for a digital feature and a "Train Like" workout video.

Ashley, who came out as a transgender man in 2013, reflected on gradually coming to terms with his identity.

"It’s not that I hated my body—I just didn't feel comfortable in it. But once I learned who I truly was inside and I realized I was able to make a change, I started to explore more in college," he shared.

"After I graduated college," Ashley continued, "I started working at Callen Lord Community Health Center in New York, and that's where I met a trans guy in person for the first time. I didn't know that he was trans until he disclosed it to me, [and I realized] it's not this big scary thing that everyone says it was going to be."

"I can still find a job, I will be loved. I was 23 years old when I made the decision to transition," he said.

Ashley also shared some of the difficulties of living as a transgender man, particularly when it comes to modeling and working with brands.

"Even with all I’ve accomplished, I still feel there's tokenism and I’m offered [opportunities] simply for being trans. But I have to take it because I need to make a living," he said.

"With certain brand deals, because of my following on social media, I can be pretty successful," he continued, "But I think this year, especially given the temperature of politics, I think brands might be steering clear of certain folks."

"There's so much nuance because there's also me not being visibly trans, so if they want to show someone that's trans, they want to show someone who's visibly trans. In those cases, I lose opportunities because then I just become just a regular guy."

"Either I’m too visibly trans, or I'm not trans enough," he said.

Ashley made headlines earlier this year for starring as the love interest in the music video for Taylor Swift's "Lavender Haze."

On shooting the video, he said, "I don't think that a lot of the guys on the set of ‘Lavender Haze’ even knew that I was trans. Everyone on set made me feel so comfortable; the guys, the director, the assistant director, they were like, ‘We all wish we had your body.’"

But although video for "Lavender Haze" has amassed more than 37 million views since its release in January, Ashley said "it didn’t garner the attention some may have anticipated, especially with the current political climate around transness."

The Harlem-born star also discussed his evolving approach to fitness. As a youth, he said his "philosophy was harder, faster, stronger. No matter what you’re going through, you push through it."

"And as I got older," he went on, "and I learned that we also have to be kind to our bodies and take care of our bodies for prolonged health, I started to take it easier."

Check out Ashley's "Train Like" video for Men's Health below and read the full interview here.

Laith Ashley's Workout for Prolonged Health & Longevity | Train Like | Men's

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