A day with Jill @Brother Models

An interview with the French Model Jill in East London about fashion & Life.

Where are you from originally?

I’m from a small village on the coast of Normandy, right across from the Channel Islands. I can see Jersey and Guernsey from my house.

How was for you moving from France to UK?

It wasn’t a big deal. I’d spent a few years studying in Paris and Toulouse, so London felt like a bigger version of that. I moved when Covid lockdowns were still in place, so it wasn’t as hectic as it normally is. 

What surprised me is how much queerer it is. For every hobby or sport it seems that London has a queer version – whether you’re into raving, reading or sports, London has it all.

What does being a trans guy mean to you?

It’s a part of my identity, but it’s not my whole identity. Similar to being French, an engineer or a boxer.

There’s a lot of negativity associated with trans people right now. Mainstream media outlets are publishing hundreds of anti-trans articles every month and we’re every boring politician’s favourite punch bag. But you know what? I love being trans. No amount of uninspired vitriol is going to change that.

Have you had any positive experiences affirming your gender identity?

Yes, many. In Year 2 a girl came up to me at playtime and asked if I wanted to be her boyfriend. I considered going along with it but ended up telling her I was a girl. She was really disappointed.

Last year I fought a cisgender (i.e. non-transgender) guy in a boxing fight and knocked him out in forty seconds. My coach told me he’d never knocked out anyone so fast, and he’s been boxing for forty years. That made me proud!

The further along in my transition I get the less euphoric some of these experiences become. Not in a bad way – I’m trading thrills for contentedness. Some things never get old though, like getting called a good lad when I hold the door open for a grandma.

How would you like to see society treat transgender people better?

It wouldn’t take much, honestly. We’re talking about meeting basic needs like access to healthcare, the right to exist in public without the fear of violence or harassment, having official documents that match your gender identity – that kind of stuff. We have a lot of that on paper, but it’s either so critically oversubscribed it might as well not exist (e.g. Gender Identity Clinics) or some people are trying to take it away from us. So it starts by fighting politicians who are trying to legislate us out of existence.

After that, it’s just about being good people. Genuine care and support go a long way.

How did you get scouted? Have you ever been thinking about modeling?

I shot with Jesse Glazzard, who posted me on his Instagram page. Michael Mayren, who founded Brother, used to be his photography teacher. He saw the pic on Jesse’s page and asked me if I ever thought about modelling.

I’d done a bit of modelling before Brother, but never pursued it seriously. People – like Jesse – would reach out on social media and I’d always say yes, because it sounded fun. 

I had a short phase as a kid where I told people I’d be a male model when I grew up. I’d seen androgynous women model men’s clothes and thought that was the coolest thing. Funny how life turned out.

Can you tell us about your first modeling experience? How was it?

My first modelling gig was for Primark’s Pride collection in 2022. They’d reached out to Sibling, the queer crew I used to skateboard with, and a few of us got cast in the campaign. 

It was really fun. I was basically paid to skate with my friends at Victoria Park skatepark – the dream! The whole team knew how to work with non-models and I had great banter with the photographer. All in all, it was possibly the best first experience I could have asked for. 

You are doing a lot of sports, especially boxing. How did you started? 

I got into boxing when I moved to London for the first time, in 2018. I’d been doing muay thai for about five years at that point, and karate for another four. I considered joining my uni’s muay thai club but I was skateboarding a lot back then and I couldn’t deal with having wrecked shins 24/7, so I joined the boxing club instead. Six months after I fought for the first time, and the rest is history.

As a trans athlete, was it difficult for you to start?

I got into boxing before I came out, so starting was a non-issue. It was scary to come back to it after transitioning though. 

I moved to London for the second time in 2020, shortly after having top surgery and starting testosterone. I passed as male (i.e. people assumed I was a cisgender man) but the locker room situation still scared me and I didn’t want to hide the fact that I was trans, so I looked for an LGBTQ+ boxing gym. I found the LGBTQ+ boxing class at Rathbone Boxing Club, then Bender Defenders, and finally ended up at Knockout, my current club and the first queer club to ever affiliate with England Boxing.

My main challenge now is the total ban placed on trans boxers who wish to take part in officially sanctioned competitions in the category of the gender they identify with, rather than the one they were assigned at birth.

If I’m correct you enjoy a lot skateboarding. Can you tell us a bit about your experience into the skateboarding community, and more in general to be part of a sport / street community? 

I skateboarded a lot as a kid. I didn’t learn tricks back then, I was just messing about with my friends in our neighbourhood. I got really into it in uni, but until I moved to London it was a very solitary hobby. I hated being the only girl at the skatepark so I preferred to skate street on my own. 

When I moved to Camden, I forced myself to check out my local skatepark and the first time I went, I happened to meet two people from Sibling. That encounter probably changed my life. It was through Sibling that I made my first transmasc friends, which later led me to realize I was trans myself. I’ve got a lot of queer friends now, and with the gym and boxing I don’t skateboard quite as much anymore, but sometimes I do miss that space we carved for ourselves in a wider, much less accepting landscape. 

I don’t want to dunk on skaters, because it’s not an individual problem. But skateboarding sees itself as this underground counterculture where it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you shred, but if you’re a part of any minority you know that’s not the case. The people who get the opportunities and the people who decide who gets them are the same as in every other sport: it’s a boys’ club, all the way to the top. If skateboarding were so accepting it wouldn’t have taken until his pro career ended for Brian Anderson to come out as gay, and if it the playing field were level every female pro wouldn’t need a day job to make ends meet.

It is changing for the better though. When I rock up to a park now there will always be a girl there, and more often than not there’ll be more than one. Queer and trans skaters like Leo Baker, Cher Straub or Arin Lester are starting to get the recognition they deserve. Groups like Transkaters are organising sellout queer skate nights in major London skateparks, it’s a real joy to see. 

Skateboarding will always have a special place in my heart. And I’ve always found my way back to it, so give it a few years and you might catch me on my board again. But always at a dodgy street spot, never a skatepark!

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