Hugh Hefner did his part as a trans ally.
Hugh Hefner may not be the first person you think of when you contemplate LGBT rights, and some of you may not even agree with his personal life, entertainment medium or treatment of women. But Hefner, who died last week at 91, did do his part for the community in a few ways. Back when even saying the word "homosexual" was taboo.
First, in the 1955 issue of Playboy, he published a short story called “The Crooked Man,” by Charles Beaumont. The story revolves around a society where homosexuality is the norm. Readers were not happy at the time but Hefner stood by his decision, “If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society, then the reverse was wrong, too.”
Then it wasn’t until the early 80’s that he caused another stir, again within the pages of his magazine, this time though he put the controversy on the star-making real estate of the Playboy cover.
International supermodel Caroline "Tula" Cossey became recognized after her uncredited role as a “Bond Girl” in the movie “For Your Eyes Only” in 1981. She was featured in Playboy based on that without anyone knowing her past.
But, it wasn’t long after that she was outed in the tabloids as transgender, she thought her professional career was over. That is until she asked Playboy if she could be featured within its pages once again, this time as an activist. The on-again-off-again pitch seemed as if it would never transpire. But thanks to Hefner's help it did.
The now-famous cover came with the question, “Would you sleep with this woman?”
Cossey recently spoke about Hefner to the Huffington Post.
“Mr. Hefner once said that life is too short to be living someone else’s dream and I think it spoke loudly of how respectful he was of the individuality of others,” she said. “He certainly was with me.”
In her article, Cossey writes a debt of gratitude to the publisher who gave her a second chance when no one else would.
Here is an excerpt from that article.
They [Playboy] were very eager so we shot the spread and cover and did the full interview. It was just about to go to print when they called to say the whole lot had been shelved. A major US company threatened to pull millions of dollars in advertising if Playboy featured me. I was extremely disappointed. I was told Hugh had argued hard for me but at the end of the day no one could afford to lose that sort of endorsement fee so I sadly understood why it didn’t go ahead.
Mr. Hefner, however, had continued to follow my activism which included doing chat shows and interviews around the world. Months passed and then he invited me to the mansion to discuss things face to face. I obliged and after telling him my story, he was visibly moved and had great empathy for the challenges that I had endured and was still facing. He then did an incredible thing for those times. Despite the enormous pressure he was under he decided to go ahead and run the spread as a feature in the US and worldwide and essentially became an ally for trans visibility and awareness.
You can read Caroline Cossey's full article for the Huffington Post HERE.