Talking underwear parties and how to be an ally in the Trump era with agender model and all around awesome human Rain Dove

Behind the scenes of the UNDERNEATH IT ALL shoot for TomboyX. Photo courtesy Neil Riddell.

Let’s get a few things out of the way right now: Yes that’s her real name. Yes, she’s damn tall (6'2" hello.) And yes, she models as both a man and a woman. Or as she’s said previously, “and everything in between … I model as a human being.”

A little over a year ago, I was asked to work on a brand evolution project for TomboyX. Rain was quickly held up as our inspiration—and okay fine, our crush. Aside from her tall-drink-of-water-ness, she came across as inclusive, positive, charitable, hilarious, and utterly without pretense. (Sidebar: If you haven’t heard of TomboyX, they make underwear to fit regular bodies. Underwear that any woman can feel comfortable in, regardless of where she might fall on the size or gender spectrum. ‘bout time, right?)

A self-described “gender capitalist”, Rain is one of the most recognizable — and commercially viable — androgynous models working today. Needless to say, we were pumped when she agreed to partner with us. Along the way to creating our first video, we bunked at the same house, rewrote the script, and watched the final Presidential debate together — while heavily self-medicating with post-shoot Thai food and beer.

The last time I saw you, you were in your underwear. Which sounds hella sexier than what we were actually doing — which was watching the last debate. I don’t think any of us in that room could anticipate where we are now. How were you feeling post-election?

I wish I wasn’t the only one in the room who was enjoying an underwear party that night — the breeze I experienced was pretty much the only comforting thing about that debate!

Post-election I’m feeling hopeful and inspired. Not because I support President Trump or the people surrounding him, but because I see people activating in their lives and communities. He lost the popular vote — by almost three million votes. So if his actions step upon our rights, we will rise up. If he doesn’t deliver a safe America to us, then he will unwittingly breed a new generation of activists. And they will be a symbolic reminder for the future that we should never stop BEing for the wellbeing of others. At a time when the virtual world is breeding complacency in the physical world, ironically having Trump just might save us by waking us up to LIVE again.

And while I personally believe we have plenty of reasons to be wary of him and his team in the White House, I also feel in the name of democracy it’s important to give him a chance. Just like it’s been important to give people who support minority communities, radical conscientious environmental change, and open human love choices a chance.

Down to it at the shoot for TomboyX. Photo courtesy Neil Riddell.

When the Supreme Court decision around gay marriage was handed down in the summer of ‘15, progress felt inevitable — at least to me. Now it feels like we’re falling down a rabbit hole of misogyny, racism, sexism, a lot of -isms. Given your experience and perspective, how do you think people who are in a position of privilege can best be allies to vulnerable populations right now?

A position of privilege can be many things!

For people who have the privilege of visibility as a personality, brand, or public figure, the answer is simple. They quite literally have a stage. A spotlight. The best way to be an ally is not necessarily to step out on that stage yourself and speak on behalf of a cause but rather share your stage so that those who are most affected might speak. Sharing your space in that way is the most authentic and impactful approach in my personal opinion.

For those with monetary privilege: fund art, causes, and passionate individuals. That type of giving has the potential to create massive change.

Then there are all of us. No matter what your minority may be, if you’re reading this right now you are privileged. You have access to technology. You have the ability to comprehend. You’re likely not reading this while under life threatening duress. You can share your privilege by letting others know you are there for them in times of struggle, even if just emotionally. If you have the right to vote, you can vote for people who represent the type of world you want to live in. If you use social media, follow and interact with people’s content that matters. It truly is up to us.

Image courtesy Rain Dove | Instagram

Trump hasn’t made any overt anti-LGBTQ statements that I’m aware of, but his cabinet is terrifying. How do straight people who have nothing to fear personally on those issues make sure we’re supporting our LGBTQ friends, family and community?

To be fair, I think any “straight” ally still has something to fear in the oppression of others based on their sexuality. Straight or queer, to live in a world where love isn’t free is terrifying.

People who don’t share the same sexuality with others can easily support each other by showing up whenever freedom to love is in danger. Listening, speaking, sharing, and taking action if necessary.

UNDERNEATH IT ALL for TomboyX

You’ve been a friend and supporter of TomboyX for a while now. When we were working on this campaign, we kept returning to your voice, your approach, your personality, your presence and your positivity and playfulness as an incredible embodiment of what we were going for. So I know why we were interested in you. What made you interested in TomboyX and in being a part of this video specifically?

I love what TomboyX represents — from the manufacturing practices to the CEO to the way they’re marketing their product. They have fair wages, “female” only manufacturing in the countries where the products are made, and a durable product that feels good. They’re dedicated to the art community and minority communities by featuring various prints and collaborations with local artists. They’re a brand that’s truly about empowerment. The CEO is an incredibly generous and open human who I believe will help change the world in a big way.

As far as being in this video, I was technically the second choice. TomboyX wanted to give a less exposed person that platform and it was really amazing that that was their goal originally. The fact that they weren’t hitting me up to exploit my fan base made me a diehard fan and brand ambassador. I’d do whatever it takes to support them. Hopefully that will mean in the future that you’ll see other amazing humans in their videos, representing the humble truth of who they are.

All eyes on Rain for the UNDERNEATH IT ALL shoot for TomboyX. Photo courtesy Neil Riddell.

As you mentioned, the script was written before you signed on and then you and I worked together to rewrite it the night before the shoot. You, me, and Fran (CEO, TomboyX) all stayed at Courtney’s house (team member from the ad agency) where we did a whole lot of DIY shoot prep. It just wasn’t a typical shoot, and the whole process felt like hanging in the coolest, most progressive dorm ever. What was your takeaway from that experience?

I’ve shot a good number of ads and commercials as a model in my career. This certainly wasn’t just an advertisement. We were creating a statement. We were creating art. And a big reason I stand so firmly behind TomboyX is because I know in my heart that even if this piece doesn’t sell a lot of underwear, the whole team would be satisfied if just one person watching felt comforted and “seen” by the message we created.

You’ve defined yourself as a “gender capitalist” — a term I can’t get enough of. Can you talk a little bit about where that came from and what that means to you?

Gender Capitalism came about when I realized the two most acceptable and basic ways society perceived me was: 1) as an ugly woman or 2) as a young man. I couldn’t care less which, but I know that much of the world does care. And because of the division of the sexes, there are certain things that are most beneficial for “women” and certain things that are more beneficial for “men”. After firefighting I realized I just don’t have time to play this game where I’m disadvantaged at all based on people’s perception of what sex I am. So I decided I’m going to reflect the best or most opportune “sex” for any given situation, so I can get the most out of my life. I’m hoping that people will see that I’m thriving by doing this and we all could if the world would just give us the best all the time, regardless of what “sex” we’re perceived as.

One image from Rain’s Olympics Series, 2016. Image courtesy Rain Dove | Instagram.

You’ve lived and modeled as both a masculine and a feminine figure. For example, you worked as a firefighter in Oregon where everyone assumed you were a man. And on your Instagram account you play with notions of femininity, masculinity, and gender where you might be doing the same pose but clothed completely differently. I think a lot of people would like to be a fly on the wall to see and understand how the world reacts to gender (i.e. experiences we are no longer aware are happening or different, because we’re so accustomed to them) As a double agent of sorts, what do you notice the most? What reactions do you notice the most? Is it easy for you to feel power dynamics shift and how? What insights have these experiences given you?

Dang this is a big question I could write books on. The power shifts are easy to feel. You have to be observant of how others carry themselves, speak, and generally give energy. It sounds hippie dippy to most but that’s just how I do it. I read people, I leave room to let people be fluid and changing, and I understand that I will sometimes be surprised. “Gender” shifts that I make are only done in response to people who give off energy or verbally say that they will treat people differently based on their “sex” perception.

As a “female”-perceived human I feel I am often treated like I’m not as intelligent. I don’t get sexually harassed a lot unless I have cleavage showing. For many “women” it’s a really dangerous issue. But I’m also given priority over “men” in a life or death situation. I’m given free entry into places, free drinks, and it’s easier in general to catch someone’s eye.

As a “male”-perceived person I feel a burden of responsibility on my shoulders that I may not always be able to carry. From having to lay down my life first to having to be strong enough to be able to carry others even if they break down completely. But I get the perk of having people trust me more easily, I’m assumed to be strong, and I’m able to walk the streets at night feeling safe.

The experiences of being seen as one or the other are just so drastically different. But at the end of the day, I’m one person and should be treated the same regardless.

What would your ideal reaction be to the video and your presence in it? What would make you feel like we did our jobs right?

The ideal reaction would be that the words resonate in a way that creates a dialogue in homes, online, and in the media. Even if just one person reacts to this in a way that encourages them to choose to live — and I mean truly live — I think we’ve done our jobs right. Cupcakes would also be a great reaction.


Thank you to Rain Dove for taking the time for this interview and for her work on behalf of TomboyX. An earlier version of this interview appeared on the TomboyX blog.

If you enjoyed this piece, please recommend it so others may discover it! Where you can find me: I’m a Writer and Creative Director, a contributor to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Co-Founder and Editor of RAZED. Follow me on Twitter, won’t you?

If you have recommendations for ways to be an ally in the Trump era, organizations or causes you’d like to make others aware of, and/or related pieces that you feel build on this conversation, please write a response and I’ll update this section accordingly.

You can find Rain Dove on Facebook, Instagram, and read more about here here:

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