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Model Olly Eley is Elle UK's first-ever agender cover star

"Trans and non-binary kids need to hear that they are beautiful and worthy of love and a fulfilling life."

2021-05-06

Words: Will Stroude

Model Olly Eley has become the first agender person to grace the cover of the British edition of Elle magazine.

The Australian, who does not identify with any gender, is the first agender or non-binary person to appear on the cover of the noted fashion and lifestyle magazine since the publication's inception in 1985.

Agender is a term used to refer to someone who feels devoid of gender altogether or does not identify with any traditional gender binary. 

In a personal essay in the June issue of Elle UK, Olly opens up about their journey to understanding their lack of gender identity in a world where gender remains one of society's most enduring conventions. 

Olly Eley appears on the cover of the June issue of Elle UK (courtesy of  Elle UK / Damon Baker)

"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," explains Olly.

"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."

Aussie model Olly, who is signed to SUPA Model Management in the UK, reveals that moving to Sydney allowed them to begin exploring their identity.

Olly Eley appears on the cover of the June issue of Elle UK (courtesy of  Elle UK / Damon Baker)

"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", they say.

"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."

Olly, who clarifies that their agender identity does not mean they are "fluid" or "shift between genders and pronouns", adds that they hope to be a role model for all young people struggling with their gender identity; be they agender, transgender or non-binary.

Olly Eley appears on the cover of the June issue of Elle UK (courtesy of  Elle UK / Damon Baker)

"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", declares Olly.

"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."

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