Playboy’s First Transgender Playmate Divides Readers

Playboy’s November issue will feature a first for the magazine: a centerfold of a transgender playmate.

26-year-old French model, Ines Rau, will anchor the first issue released following the death of the magazine’s founder, Hugh Hefner. Although  Ms. Rau was chosen for the centerfold two months before Hefner’s death, the company says that it’s a timely opportunity to underline the spirit of the magazine. “This is really a moment for us to take a step back and say that so much of what the brand stood for in the early years is very much still alive in culture,” Cooper Hefner, Chief Creative Officer, told The New York Times.

Ms. Rau, who has appeared in American Vogue and Italian Vogue, said that she was so honored by the choice that she “cried tears of happiness.”

The announcement sparked a wide range of reactions from the magazine’s readers and the public at large. Across the magazine’s social media pages, some commenters cheered the decision, while others expressed surprise and disapproval. One reader wrote, “I’d like to officially congratulate Playboy on cowering to political correctness. I won’t resubscribe for this.”

Mr. Hefner stands by the decision, saying that the magazine is committed to recognizing progressive equality and sexuality. “I made the decision because it was the right decision to make, regardless of the comments that come out.”

To the charge that some readers made–that Hugh Hefner would not have approved–the magazine has stated that the November issue went to press two months before his death. Although Ms. Rau is the first transgender centerfold, this is not the first time a transgender playmate has appeared in the magazine. In 1981, English transgender model Caroline “Tula” Cossey appeared in a photo spread for the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only.” She returned for a solo pictorial in 1991.

Cooper Hefner says he is surprised that those who oppose the decision are unaware of his father’s overarching intent for publishing Playboy. Hugh Hefner wanted to push open the boundaries of society’s sexual norms. He wanted “to have a conversation about sex that was healthy and bring it out of the closet,” says Cooper Hefner.

When asked about her experience posing for the magazine, Ms. Rau speaks to the changes in the culture’s acceptance of transgender people. “I was just thinking of being this little lonely boy in the ghetto, in the shadows in my room. And now I’m in Los Angeles shooting Playboy looking so beautiful, feeling so amazing.”


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