From Transgender Activist to Runway Model

Hunter Schafer, 19, is an A.C.L.U. plaintiff who has modeled for Helmut Lang, Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu.

Name: Hunter Schafer
Age: 19
Hometown: Raleigh, N.C.
Currently Lives: In a four-bedroom loft in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn that “looks like it’s from a sitcom or something,” she said.

Claim to Fame: Mx. Schafer, who prefers that nongendered courtesy title, is an artist, designer and model who has appeared on the cover of Teen Vogue and in runway shows for Mansur Gavriel, Versus Versace and Helmut Lang. “Walking runway has been something I didn’t even think would be a possibility in my lifetime with my circumstances and my origins,” she said.

Mx. Schafer was assigned male at birth, but always found herself searching for and expressing femininity through art and fashion. She started transitioning during high school. “What I’m trying to do in all senses is deconstruct our idea of gender, and use the privileges that come with looking like a model to bring attention to that,” she said.

Big Break: Mx. Schafer first made headlines in 2016, when she became a plaintiff in the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which forced individuals to use bathrooms corresponding to the sex assigned to them at birth.

“I don’t know if I would call myself an activist, as much as someone who’s just vocal about being trans, which sometimes can feel like activism, because just existing as a trans person can often be hard enough, particularly for people of color or people who don’t pass,” she said. After graduating from high school in 2017, Mx. Schafer moved to New York to sign with Elite model management.

Latest Project: During the recent fashion weeks in New York and Europe, Mx. Schafer did “almost a full circuit,” she said, by walking in nine shows, including for Miu Miu, Marc Jacobs and House of Holland. It was her first time traveling abroad. “I got myself there, and it was really exciting to know that I was doing this for work,” she said. “A lot of the designers that I admire are in those European cities that kind of seemed untouchable before.”

Next Thing: Mx. Schafer plans to open a studio and gallery in Manhattan specifically for trans artists, using grant money from Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 program, an annual contest honoring young trailblazers. Her exploration of genderless art extends to fashion. In the fall, she will attend Central Saint Martins in London, where she plans to focus on nonbinary clothing design.

Turning Point: Mx. Schafer is approaching the point in her transition when her hormone blockers will stop working, and she needs to decide whether to start taking spironolactone alongside estrogen to maintain her feminine body type. If she were to return to a more conventionally masculine body, her measurements would change, and she’d likely have a harder time booking modeling jobs. “I’m probably going to make art about it soon,” she said.