Model Olly Eley has said they wished they had known when they were growing up that it was “OK to exist in this ‘in-between’ place” as they were revealed as the first non-binary cover star of Elle UK.
The Australian star, who is agender, meaning they are devoid of any gender altogether, said they did not have the language to understand how they felt when they were younger.
Eley told the magazine: “After years of despising the body that I was born with, unable to relate in any way to the gender I was assigned at birth, I had at last found a way of existing in the world that made sense to me.
“I’ve never felt female, but then neither have I felt male. If there was a thin line that connected the two genders, I would be a dot floating somewhere between the two, but untethered to the line altogether. It’s the only way I can describe it.”
The model said it was only when they moved to Sydney that they first heard the pronouns they/them, adding: “Before I moved to Sydney, I didn’t have the language or the role models to understand how I felt.
“I’d never really had the chance to consider that ‘gender’ could be something I could control if I wanted to.
“Once I moved to the city, that all changed. My mind opened and was flooded with light – there was this whole queer community that I had no idea existed.
“When someone first introduced themselves to me with their name and the pronouns ‘they/them’, it felt so safe to me. Woah, that’s the answer to everything right now, I thought.”
Eley also explained why they chose not to have a mastectomy and instead opted to bind their chest, saying: “There are countless different surgeries that some trans people choose to have to feel more comfortable in their bodies; for me I feel so disconnected from any gender that no body will ever feel perfect.
“I chose not to have full ‘top surgery’ [a mastectomy], as that body wouldn’t have served me either.
“Instead, I wanted the option to bind [a method of compressing the chest to give a flatter appearance] and the size of my chest previously meant that I wasn’t able to do so effectively.
“So I had a reduction to give me that control over my appearance.
“I bind not because I’m ashamed of my body but because the autonomy of doing so makes me feel safe.
“I’m not fluid where I shift between genders and pronouns. I am agender (devoid of gender altogether) and what I do with my body, whether I’m naked or in a full snowsuit, doesn’t change it.
“I’ve accepted that I’m a non-binary person living in a binary world – that I have every intention of disrupting!
“When someone is neither, both or all of the above in terms of their gender – like I am – people can be defensive and reluctant to accept that such a grey area exists.
“I wish I’d known that it was OK to exist in this ‘in-between’ place when I was growing up.
“I wish someone had told me that I could be whoever I wanted to be, do whatever I wanted to do and that I was so valid and important.
“Trans and non-binary kids need to hear that they are beautiful and worthy of love and a fulfilling life.”
The June issue of Elle UK is on sale from May 6.