A modeling agency that solely reps transgender talent will soon be a reality. Apple Model Management, a leading Thai agency, is opening a Los Angeles branch dedicated specifically to transgender stunners, according to The Advocate. In November, the Bangkok-based agency made headlines by launching the first-ever transgender and cisgender division, which debuted with 18 models. There are currently 22 transgender women on their roster. "Apple Model Management has opened the first of its kind, full transgender model division, with the goal of giving transgender models an international stage to work worldwide and to globally represent Thailand and South East Asia," according to the agency's website. The pioneering agency's Thai roots make a lot of sense: There's nationwide acknowledgement — though not always acceptance — of kathoey, biological males who've taken on female traits (which can, but doesn't always, include sexual reassignment surgery). There are currently an estimated 10,000 to 100,000 kathoey, out of a total population of 56 million, according to The Daily Beast. Thai culture also identifies a third gender, called phet thi sam. In 2007, Thailand passed its new constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, and a proposal rolled out in January would, if enacted, ban discrimination based on sexual orientation as well. A proposed annex would also protect third-gender people — and all gender identities. India, Pakistan, and Nepal have already moved to recognize third gender.
As for Apple Model Management's trans-only expansion to L.A., it will be run by Cecilio Asuncion, who will serve as agency director of the new branch. "Apple Model Management is an important agency to the trans community because we truly believe in their talent and capabilities. We are committed to molding them into the best possible models they can be," Asuncion says. He directed What's the T?, a documentary released in 2013 about the lives of five transgender women. The agency is currently courting new talent for its L.A. office; it's specifically looking for trans men who are 6 feet or taller and trans women who are at least 5'8". Setting up shop in L.A. "simply felt like the next place to go from Asia because of the work opportunities, since there is a fashion market and commercial work as well," Asuncion says. This is a major milestone for both the trans community and the modeling industry — and, hopefully, it'll result in more trans models on the runways soon.