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Olly Eley is ELLE UK’s first ever non-binary cover star

For the June 2021 issue, ELLE UK introduces Olly Eley, agender model [devoid of gender altogether], spotted via Instagram by Editor-in-Chief, Farrah Storr.

Olly Eley is ELLE UK’s first ever non-binary cover star
Olly Eley: “Trans and non-binary kids need to hear that they are beautiful and worthy of love and a fulfilling life.” Photograph: ELLE UK / Damon Baker.

The Australian model writes an exclusive essay for ELLE UK about being a non-binary person with no connection to any gender living in a binary world and disrupting those societal conventions.

The June issue of ELLE UK is on sale from 6 May.

Excerpts from the essay:

On describing their gender:

“After years of despising the body that I was born with, unable to relate in any way to the gender I was assigned at birth, I had at last found a way of existing in the world that made sense to me. I’ve never felt female, but then neither have I felt male. If there was a thin line that connected the two genders, I would be a dot floating somewhere between the two, but untethered to the line altogether. It’s the only way I can describe it.”

On moving to Sydney and first hearing the pronouns ‘they/them’:

“Before I moved to Sydney, I didn’t have the language or the role models to understand how I felt. I’d never really had the chance to consider that ‘gender’ could be something I could control if I wanted to. Once I moved to the city, that all changed. My mind opened and was flooded with light – there was this whole queer community that I had no idea existed. When someone first introduced themselves to me with their name and the pronouns ‘they/them’, it felt so safe to me. Woah, that’s the answer to everything right now, I thought.”

On being agender [devoid of gender altogether] and choosing not to have a mastectomy:

“There are countless different surgeries that some trans people choose to have to feel more comfortable in their bodies; for me I feel so disconnected from any gender that no body will ever feel perfect. I chose not to have full ‘top surgery’ [a mastectomy], as that body wouldn’t have served me either. Instead, I wanted the option to bind [a method of compressing the chest to give a flatter appearance] and the size of my chest previously meant that I wasn’t able to do so effectively. So I had a reduction to give me that control over my appearance.”

“I bind not because I’m ashamed of my body but because the autonomy of doing so makes me feel safe. I’m not ‘fluid’ where I shift between genders and pronouns. I am agender [devoid of gender altogether] and what I do with my body, whether I’m naked or in a full snowsuit, doesn’t change it. I’ve accepted that I’m a non-binary person living in a binary world (that I have every intention of disrupting!).”

On disrupting social conventions and being a role model for trans and non-binary kids:

“When someone is neither, both or all of the above in terms of their gender – like I am – people can be defensive and reluctant to accept that such a grey area exists. I wish I’d known that it was OK to exist in this ‘in-between’ place when I was growing up. I wish someone had told me that I could be whoever I wanted to be, do whatever I wanted to do and that I was so valid and important. Trans and non-binary kids need to hear that they are beautiful and worthy of love and a fulfilling life.”

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