Degrassi is known for a lot of wild shit. Some know it simply as that show that put Drake in a wheelchair or recognize it only through the most meme-worthy moments that have floated onto Tumblr but, for model and artist Finn Barrett, it helped articulate his identity thanks to the inclusion of a transgender character.
Related | Finn Barrett is the Male Model Redefining Trans Identity
"It was the first time I had ever really heard the word 'transgender' that was actually followed up with an explanation of what it meant," Barrett recalls. It was this moment, at the age of 12, that helped spark his escape from the small conservative town of Vero Beach, Florida he grew up in.
After enduring life at a high school that refused to comply with the needs of trans students and getting kicked out of his house, Barrett packed up and went to Los Angeles at the age of 18. Now, he's settled into the sunny hills, signed to Wilhelmina LA, and become Galore Magazine's first male cover model.
We caught up with the artist to talk about how evil TV is, tearing down his construct of everything, and Nicki Minaj.
OUT: You realized you were transgender after watching an seeing a trans character on Degrassi. What was life like before that epiphany?
Finn Barrett: More specifically, when I was watching that episode, it was the first time I had ever really heard the word "transgender" that was actually followed up with an explanation of what it meant. I've always been this way. As early as 3 years old, I asked my mom to call me Matthew (now my middle name) after getting my first "boy" haircut.
Growing up in a small conservative town, [this moment on Degrassi ] was all I needed to see to know that I could never flourish in these conditions -- so I left as soon as I could. I would have never been able to do anything for myself if I didn't tear down my construct of everything first.
Degrassi fans have seen a lot of wild stuff happen on the show. What other valuable life lessons did you learn from the show?
That high school and life are not real.
You've got a lot of tattoos. Which one is your favorite?
My favorite tattoo would definitely have to be the little cartoon version of my girlfriend on my left arm! Someone from the internet drew these little Scott Pilgrim type characters of us and we got them tattooed on each other within the week. Too cute. I love to be able to see her wherever I go.
So much of the conversation around trans identity tends to revolve around "passing" or taking hormones/getting surgery to pass. What would you say to the trans kids who look up to you and aren't sure they want to take hormones?
Personally, I've found that as time goes on, I've been able to learn how to love and accept myself more and more. I was not "born in the wrong body." How could anyone ever be expected to live by that? I was born a boy, regardless of anything physical, and I have known this to be my truth my whole life.
The pressure of "needing" to alter anything in regards your body is not only extremely nerve racking, but also not feasible if you take time to think about every individual case. I knew that I didn't have the money or medical backing from my state when I was younger to be able to even consider making any alterations until after I was 18. By the time I was an adult, I found comfort in the fact that I am a boy with tits and a vagina. So what?
Don't get me wrong though, if you have the time, money and capability, by all means, do what makes you truly happy. I plan to chop my tits off at some point just so I can go for runs with my shirt off or maybe become a professional boxer one day. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.
You've talked about how tough it was to be trans in high school. What did you tell yourself or do to get through it?
Everyone who was trying to cast judgment on me based on "gender" was either just excruciatingly bored, phobic, or closeted themselves -- or too afraid to look into themselves. That's why it's so easy to remain calm and untouched in these sorts of situations because I've come to the understanding that projected hatred will simply always be a projection. The hatred these people have is usually for themselves.
Have you been obsessed with any TV shows or music lately?
TV is evil. I only listen to experimental electronica & Nicki Minaj.
Photography by Maxwell Poth.