Androgynous NYC-Based Model Rain Dove Talks Gender, Language and All Things Fashion

Rain Dove poses on a motorcycle as an androgynous model. (Photo Credit: Nomi Ellenson)
Rain Dove poses on a motorcycle as an androgynous model. (Photo Credit: Nomi Ellenson)

By Re

Rain Dove turned plenty of heads at New York’s Fashion Week as she walked the runway in both menswear and womenswear, but the strikingly handsome 6-foot-2 model doesn’t really care what you think she has between her legs. “The gender thing doesn’t exist; it’s a social construct you don’t have to fit into,” Dove told BuzzFeed News.

Dove recently appeared in Cosmopolitan’s “11 Women Who Are Redefining Beauty,” but growing up on a rural farm in Vermont she often felt like “an ugly woman.” Since her childhood, Dove has embraced her androgynous looks and now identifies as an agender model. “I model as male, female, and everything in between. I model as all genders. I model as a human being,” she said in a recent interview. Before Dove walks in Oakland’s Queer Fashion Week, the model stopped by BuzzFeed New York to tell us about her future plans for complete fashion world domination.

Rain Dove is an androgynous agender model and a gender capitalist. She grew up in Vermont and felt like “an ugly woman,” with the nickname, Tranny Danny that followed her throughout high school. She only fell into modeling altering losing a bet on a Cleveland Browns football game.

She has a genetic engineering and civil law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, worked as a firefighter in Colorado under a male pseudonym, has worked in construction, has an undisclosed art gallery coming out in November and fashion line in the works and aspirations of acting.

On finding herself:
I’ve never had to explain myself before. I’ve always been able to do what I want to do, when I wanted to do it. And I’ve orchestrated my life in a way where I can get the best out of everything, by presenting myself however I felt was beneficial. I never thought of it as a political act, and I surely wasn’t trying to offend the feminist movement, enjoying the benefits of patriarchy. But that’s just how I lived my life, I didn’t think about it. I didn’t think about upsetting people, I was just like, I don’t have time to stand in line and wait for my turn, as a woman because I needed to step down, or as a personal who enjoys similar genitals, aka gay. I don’t have time to wait for some hetero-person… whether it be age, race, height, sexuality, it doesn’t matter, I just don’t have time; my life is short. I just go out there every day and I don’t wait my turn in life; I’m not very nice. I’m nice to people, but I run my life like a business…

Is this networking event going to be more beneficial masculine or feminine, and how do people treat either sex? Is this situation going to be better if I’m a boy or a girl? I’lll dress the way I feel comfortable. I never really thought about it as I’m dressing like a boy or a girl, I was like I realized that people that look this way, whether they’re male or female, but people who look this way tend to get more opportunities. Later on, I got into the fashion industry, and people started asking me questions about this, and I was like I mean…I didn’t do it intentionally, I just realized the advantages and disadvantages of different things and like I’m not going to sit back and be like, Aw shucks, I guess I’ll just be a proud woman and walk into there and do everything that society has told women they have to do—dress, high heels, everything like that—if they don’t give me an opportunity

I’m not going to try to prove a point until I’m fucking famous.

I get yelled at and called a “faggot.” I feel physically unsafe when I wear a dress, because people don’t believe that I am biologically female. And i get a lot of transphobia, and…’You’re a fucking ugly person,’ people comment on my things. I took a picture in lingerie next to three really stunning people: one of them has a prothsteci leg, one of them is a plus size model and another one is really short. And then there’s me, and none of the other three models had anything said about them, but what people kept saying was, ‘That’s a dude on the left!’ and ‘Did they photoshop his junk out?’

I just keep doing what I’m doing, and I make it really hard for them to criticize me, because I’m going to do it regardless. I want them to realize that no matter what they say or how they feel, it’s not going to change what I’m doing. And when they’re on their death beds, and they want five seconds to say to somebody that they love very much, that they love them, they won’t be able to do it because they wasted their time on me. I want them to value their time. My goal is to not to tear people down or tell people to fuck off and get a life; my goal is to tell people to start valuing themselves a little bit more; I want people to treat themselves more. I want people to treat themselves like taking care of themselves is their job.

On language:
I’m having a hard time with language right now because it’s something I never had to describe before. I’ve never had to like introduce myself…I just have been. I just was. Suddenly, I’m in a world where people are like, What is that? Why is that? How does that work? What do you do? What is this thing? What is that thing? And I’m like, I don’t know this is my life. This is what is going on. I didn’t realize that what I was doing was any kinda of social, political movement. I didn’t realize that what I was doing was going to be at all in any way considered a form of activism…It turns out that everyday that I’m in this industry, and I wake up and I just don’t quit, it’s a form of activism. Even if I don’t get casted for anything, if I just wake up and I still am here and viable, it’s a rare form of activism.

I don’t have a problem with labels. We need to be able to describe the world around us. We need to be able to communicate about things, and what we see, and how we feel and how we perceive it. And how we feel about ourselves to other people, and labels are a way to do it. Labels are just a definition. Every definition is a label. But I don’t like limitations. And sometimes labels are limitations; they’re exclusive.

Gender doesn’t mean the same thing for every person. Sex and gender are so different and people often think sex and gender are the same thing…

On modeling menswear vs. womenswear:
When I wear men’s clothing, and I say this with a grain of salt, because I don’t believe that anything is really men’s or women’s clothing. I do believe that things are tailored for specific physiological attributes, but unless people are physically barring people from buying the clothing, the minute it’s on the market, it’s open to anyone to buy it, regardless of their personal identity or genitalia.

But when I wear men’s stuff…When I go to men’s casting, I can wear anything I want to wear. I can wear any shoes I want to wear. I can wear any shirt I want to wear…It becomes about my personality, and my general look. When I go to a woman’s casting, it’s like all the curves must be showing, I must be wearing high heels, which will cripple me if I was them too long. I have to walk with my hips swaying, sex sells, back straight, hair electrified the entire time. It’s just different. I feel like, and males get paid way less…and men get exposed more than women, because their bodies are so accepted, that nothing is really taboo, so you might as well show it all off.

Although she models both mens- and womenswear, she feels more powerful in a dress.

“When I wear womenswear I feel empowered. I know that when I wear a dress and walk down the street it’s a form of activism. Every time I put on a dress it tells people I can do this. I think it makes people rethink things. But, I feel a lot more comfortable in menswear; I like things that are looser fitting. If there’s a zombie apocalypse I want to be able to run away! I just feel like men’s clothing is a bit more practical.

On gender:
A self-titled “gender capitalist,” Dove uses other people’s confusion to her advantage.

“I realized, as a woman and because I wasn’t the sorority-type girl, it was hard to get the cute jobs as a cocktail waitress or something. I realized I could make a lot more money as a male. I did construction, I did landscaping, I did everything that you would classify as classic lesbian behavior. And it was really nice to be a white man in America; I mean, it was awesome! Later on, I started getting more comfortable in owning my femininity and I started doing things more tailored toward women … I was a shot girl for a hot second. This gender capitalism started taking over my life — I even went to whatever bathroom was the shortest line.”

She once worked as a firefighter in Colorado under a male pseudonym after realizing being “a man” in that particular field earned her more respect.
“I ended up in Colorado working in wilderness fire prevention. My job was to run around with a chainsaw and cut down trees during a blaze. It was really fun. When I first got out there that’s when I realized how passable of a male I could be. The first thing that these firefighters thought was that I was a male. Which was very interesting; I hadn’t really thought about it and then here they were calling me ‘bro.’

I looked at how the other women were treated in the room and I realized that being a woman was not a good thing in this predominantly male work environment. At the end of the day, if something goes wrong, you have to be able to trust your fellow man to get you out of the situation. You don’t want to be the one stuck with ‘Helga who can’t carry the chainsaw.’ There was just this perception that women couldn’t ‘step to it’ as much as the guys. I went under a pseudonym and nobody even asked if I was trans or gay; they just thought I was a guy. I lived a year like that. “

“I think all people are androgynous; it’s just that we’ve created these genders. I think that ‘androgynous’ applies to someone who doesn’t appear physically to be gender specific — you won’t be able to figure out what’s in their pants.”

On the fashion industry:
I don’t know what it is about this industry, but I woke up one day and was like, I have to do this, there is no other way in my life. I’ve never been into the fashion industry, ever. I’ve had a hard time justifying the price points of the clothing, and the idea of supporting a throw-away culture, and the narcissism that comes with it. But fashion is the only industry that’s ever told me I have to take care of myself because it’s my job…I never gave myself permission to do that before…It’s been one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever engaged in, is professionally taking care of myself.

People give the fashion industry a really hard time about what it means—eating disorders, crazy people doing crazy things to their bodies, but…fashion is going to change the world in a positive way. Everyone always talks about how shitty fashion is, how terrible it is, but, you know what, if people could take their heads out of their asses a little bit, and stop playing into the idea that in order to be fashionable, you have to be mean, fashion has the ability to change the world on a scale that is monumental. It’s core of the foundation of human expression; it’s the first thing you see on somebody—their face and their clothing, what they’re wearing. It can tell you somebody’s economic status, how they feel about themselves, what kind of employment they’re into, and it can change the way somebody feels about themselves, too.

I look at this industry, and it’s full of so much more. The hurting of other people. The hurting of yourself. The feeling of rejection and the feeling that if you’re not constantly on the move, you’re not good enough. If you don’t have money, you’re not worth anything. I’m not going to stop modeling until I can show the world the positive things that fashion has to offer. A simple advertisement can tell people all around the world that it’s okay to wear what you want to wear and how you want to wear it…You can still obtain success no matter who you’re rubbing your genitals on, whether you’re gay, straighter, whatever the hell you are. Fashion has the opportunity to tell people, we need to drop the labels and wear the labels. Fashion has the opportunity to tell people, it’s okay to be different and it’s okay to take care of yourself…I just wish the fashion industry would use their forces for good. I think they do, but I just don’t think it’s exploited enough.

She believes that the fashion industry has the power to change the world for the better.

“Fashion really does change the world. It changes how people feel about themselves, it changes what people are comfortable with sexuality wise, it changes how people accept themselves. I’ve been able to do a lot more humanitarian work and influence people the way I want to.”

She would love to see more genderless clothing campaigns and brands.

“I really love Malan Breton. His suits have a lot of color to them and very interesting floral patterns, but they’re sort of made for male anatomy. I also just started working with Ace Rivington — an androgynous menswear line but it’s very casual. I really like the direction H&M is headed in but I feel their options are a little limited. I wish they would do a campaign that wasn’t gender specific. I would love for them to do a campaign that’s like: ‘We don’t care what you’re into as long as you give us money! Wear what the fuck you want!’”