Ines Rau is Playboy’s first transgender Playmate

Ines Rau is Playboy magazine’s first transgender Playmate, appearing in the marquee centerfold spot of the magazine’s November/December issue, which will be available Oct. 31.

The 26-year-old French fashion model first appeared in the magazine’s May 2014 issue in a feature exploring gender identity titled “Evolution.” In an interview published by Playboy last week, Rau said that participating in that spread had changed her life.

“I took that chance, and then I signed with an agency,” she said.

Playboy’s newest Playmate is not the first transgender woman to appear in the magazine. Caroline “Tula” Cossey appeared in a 1981 issue. She had appeared as an extra in the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only.” At the time, though, she was not public about her transgender status. She was featured again in 1991 after being outed as transgender.

The forthcoming issue of Playboy will be a tribute to the magazine’s legendary founder Hugh Hefner, who died last month at age 91. In announcing Rau as the next issue’s Playmate, the 64-year-old magazine sought to counter any criticism by comparing the choice of Rau to other controversies it has faced — perhaps even courted — in the past. The magazine issued a series of tweets about the reaction it received after choosing its first black Playmate in 1965.

In March 1965, we featured Jenny Jackson, our first black Playmate. pic.twitter.com/2zXtQ4EDrd

Many fans revoked their subscription or returned the issue. pic.twitter.com/Xueo3hSDmx

Many more fans embraced Jenny Jackson, her beauty, and Playboy’s decision. pic.twitter.com/CUimjjbNbt

View image on Twitter

Rau told the magazine that coming out as transgender has been liberating experience. “It’s a salvation to speak the truth about yourself, whether it’s your gender, sexuality, whatever,” she said. “The people who reject you aren’t worth it. It’s not about being loved by others; it’s about loving yourself.”

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Playboy received some negative comments on social media for its choice of Playmates, but the magazine stood firm.

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Are Dr. Seuss books racist?

Dr. Seuss has taught generations of children to read with such beloved classics as The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham.

His perennial graduation gift, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, was No. 2 on USA TODAY’s Best-Selling Bookslist as recently as June.

But now the late Theodor Seuss Geisel and his picture books are in the crosshairs of the culture wars, after a Massachusetts school librarian rejected first lady Melania Trump’s donation, claiming the Seuss titles were racist and unneeded.

A Seuss museum in Springfield, Mass., the author’s hometown, says it will replace a mural featuring a Chinese character from And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The 1937 book, in which a young boy concocts an elaborate story about what he sees while on a walk, included an illustration of an Asian male running while carrying a bowl of rice and chopsticks while dressed in a silk robe, coolie hat and platform sandals.

The museum’s decision came after three authors said they would boycott an event due to the “jarring racial stereotype.”

What do the Seuss experts say? Are his admittedly eccentric works racist?

“Just as every author/illustrator is, I think that Theodor Geisel was a product of his time,” says Ann Neely, professor of children’s literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who teaches a course called “Literature of Social Transformation: The Civil Rights Movement as Depicted in Children’s and Young Adult Literature.”

“Yes, there are some Dr. Seuss drawings that, given today’s ideologies and values, can certainly be viewed as being racist,” Neely says. “The illustrations of the Chinese characters in And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street are stereotypical, offensive, and inappropriate. I believe the museum is doing the right thing by removing these images from the mural.

“Books like One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and Green Eggs and Ham are fun books for beginning readers. But we also have current authors/illustrators who provide children with marvelous books as they learn the concept of story. For example, Mo Willems’ 25 books in the ‘Elephant and Piggie’ series are truly loved by children today as they learn to read and long after.

“We should not judge Theodor Geisel by today’s standards,” Neely cautions, “but we must evaluate his books that we decide to share with children using today’s standards. We cannot wallow in our own nostalgia when we make choices for the books we share with young children. There are simply too many outstanding books available.”

Philip Nel, a professor of children’s literature at Kansas State University and author of Dr. Seuss: American Icon and Was the Cat in the Hat Black? told USA TODAY that Seuss employed both racist and anti-racist themes in his books, with The Sneetchesand Horton Hears a Who! among the latter.

Both books “clearly argue against picking on others for arbitrary marks of difference,” he says.

“Racism lurks in children’s culture in ways we’re not aware of, and (authors) can recycle images and ideas in their work without being aware of it,” Nel says. “People don’t take children’s lit seriously, they think kids are not going to notice this, only grownups notice. That underestimates their intelligence and doesn’t take into account that we learn things without being aware we’re learning things.”