More Transgender Icons That Have Shaped History

We got some great responses from you about our previous article about trans icons. You were positively intrigued by the struggles some people have to go through in order to live their lives as authentically as possible. And honestly, we can’t blame you. Their stories really make you reflect on the variety of human existence.
Getty Images Photo by Amanda Edwards / Photo by Jeff Kravitz
Getty Images Photo by Amanda Edwards / Photo by Jeff Kravitz
So, we went digging and found even more unbelievable stories of transgender trailblazers to inspire you. Take a look to get your daily dose of inspiration.

Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard has spent many years in the public eye, known as a hilarious British comedian, but also as a writer, actor, and activist. Eddie has a unique comedic style that is both playful and self-reflective. Most recently, she was a part of “Green Eggs and Ham,” a Netflix Original based on Dr. Seuss’s book by the same name.

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Izzard also has won two Emmy awards. If that’s not impressive enough, she also runs marathons and performs her comedy in french as well as in English. After a truly successful career and many years in the public eye, Izzard surprised many by coming out as genderfluid in 2018. Eddie has also announced that she prefers to be referred to as a ‘she.’

Hunter Schafer

Born in 1999 in northern California, she is the oldest of four children and has a pastor for a father. As a kid, Hunter enjoyed drawing and coming up with different stories for comic books. Schafer started her transition when she was a teenager, which caused more problems than she wanted. She was bullied and wasn’t allowed to use the women’s bathroom. But, soon, her life changed for the better.

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Schafer always thought she’d end up drawing comic books, but that changed when she landed the role of Jules in HBO’s “Euphoria.” She enjoyed getting to play that part, in which her gender identity wasn’t seen as a problem. This has caused Hunter to want to pursue acting and to become vocal about the need for more roles for trans people.

Yance Ford

If you don’t recognize Yance Ford’s face, it might be because he’s used to being behind the camera. He has worked as a producer for PBS for over 10 years. In 2017 he was on The Root’s list of the most influential African Americans aged 25-45. If this isn’t enough to make a trans icon, he was also nominated for an Academy Award, being the first transgender man to do that.

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He then went on to direct a very personal movie. Titled “Strong Island,”  the documentary tells the story of Ford’s brother’s tragic killing in 1992. It talks about how the event has affected him and his family members. He won an Emmy for that movie, of course, being the first transmen to do so. With so many awards to his name, we can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.

Ser Anzoategui

Ser’s parents are from Paragua and Argentina, but Ser was actually born in California. They started their acting career in the theaters of the city of angels. Right off the bat, Ser showed their unique voice and talent by writing, producing, and starring in a play about their life called “Catholic School Daze.”

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Ser used to identify as Karen but has since come out as non-binary. They had to deal with many obstacles, as at first, they were getting rejected and had a hard time booking new acting jobs. But, luckily, this changed when they were cast as Eddy on the TV show “Vida.”

Josie Totah

Josie Totah is another young member of our list. Born in 2001, Josie used to go by J. J. Totah is an actress you might have seen on the Disney Channel as well as on an ABC Sitcom called “Back in the Game.” Her breakthrough role came in 2018 when she starred in the comedy “Champions” alongside the spectacular Mindy Kaling.

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In August of that same year, at 17, she came out as a trans woman and declared her name to be Josie. At such a young age, she’s already been a part of six movies and over 20 TV-Shows. When does she have time to rest? Representing the younger generation of trans people in Hollywood, we are sure she will move on to do even greater things.

Brian Michael Smith

Born January 29, 1983, Brian Michael Smith was raised by his mother in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He didn’t really have a stable environment when he was a kid; he and his mother moved around a lot. When he was a kid, even though he was assigned female at birth, many thought he was a boy. This has helped him to find his way to the boy’s football team while attending High School.

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Today Brian is known as, by many, Toine Wilkins, a fictional transgender police officer, in the TV series “Queen Sugar.” He is the first black trans man who is a series regular on network television. This just goes to show that we have come a long way, but that we also have to find ways to represent more trans people in the media. In his free time, Brian advocates for the importance of trans representation.

Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya is a triple threat. She’s an artist, author, and musician. She has won over 20 awards in her life. When she’s not creating art, this Canadian sensation is a director on the board of a foundation that fights for LGBTQ women.

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She’s an incredibly prolific author and musician and has written 7 books in the past 10 years, as well as recorded 7 albums in her lifetime. Her coming out as a trans woman in 2016 did not slow her down one bit, it actually motivated her to achieve even more, and it is evident that she has.

Nikkie de Jager

No one had ever assumed that Nikkie de Jager would be on this list. For most of her career, Nikkie was just known as a Dutch Beauty Guru. Her YouTube channel NikkieTutorials has over 10 million subscribers. One of her most popular videos was one in which she showed her bare face and encouraged others to do the same. But, in 2020, something c0mpletly unexpected happened to her.

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Someone decided to blackmail her, threatening to tell the whole world something her wider audience didn’t know: Nikki was born male. At this point, she decided she couldn’t live like this anymore and has told everyone that she transitioned from male to female at a very young age. Today she counties making makeup tutorials and is engaged to her spouse, Dylan.

Jiggly Caliente

Jiggly Caliente, sometimes known simply as Jiggly, is a singer, actress, and drag performer. She rose to fame when she participated in “RuPaul’s Drag Race and when she landed the role of Veronica in the TV series “Pose.” She came out as trans in 2016, but honestly, that’s the least interesting thing about her.

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She performed as a background dancer for Christina Aguilera and appeared in “Broad City” and “Saturday Night Live.” When she’s not busy acting and dancing, she also has a musical career. In 2018 she released her first album T.H.O.T. Process. We can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

Stef Sanjati

Stefanie Luciana Peloza is another YouTube creator that has documented her transition on the platform. She has a unique look, which she inherited thanks to a genetic condition she was born with — Waardenburg syndrome. On her channel, she discusses what it’s like to live with Waardenburg syndrome.

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Sanjati has documented her facial feminization surgery on her channel, showing viewers the good, bad, and ugly sides of getting cosmetic surgeries. She has gotten many procedures done, but she is never ashamed to discuss any of them openly on her channel.

Jamie Raines

Jamie is a trans YouTuber from the UK. He has been making youtube videos documenting his transition from the very beginning, including the way his voice has changed while taking testosterone, his top surgery, and more. Today, he is engaged to Shaaba Luton, and the two often share details about different facets of their relationship.

 

Jamie met Shaaba, who is of Indian descent, before his transition. The two were good friends and started dating after Jamie started his transition. In the end, love conquered all, and with a lot of patience, they have managed to find acceptance from Shaaba’s family. Jamie likes saying that being trans doesn’t hurt anyone but being transphobic hurts many. Smart words.

Amiyah Scott

Today Amiyah has over 1.2 million followers on Instagram. But her life wasn’t always as glamorous. She was born and raised in New Orleans. She grew up with the name Arthur, but that name never felt right; she knew that she wasn’t like other boys from a very young age. Sadly, it was hard for her family to understand and accept her, but she has found acceptance with the underground scene in New Orleans.

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Her family did come around in the end, and this gave her everything she needed in order to take over the world. In 2018 she won a GLAAD Rising Star Award after portraying the lead role in Fox’s “Star.” Amiyah is indeed a rising, shining star.

Jenna Talackova

Jenna was born in Vancouver and began transitioning at age 14. By 19, she had completed her reassignment surgery. In 2012 she applied for the Miss Universe competition, made it to the top 70 applicants but was denied from participating in the competition because she was born as a male.

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But Jenna isn’t the type of person that would just give up without a fight. She protested the unfair decision and ended up being allowed into the competition. The most impressive part of this story is that Jenna never set out to be an activist or an advocate for trans rights. She just fought for her own rights and ended up changing the world.

Andreja Pejic

It is safe to say that Andreja Pejic was born to be a model, no matter her gender. Andreja was born in Bosnia but had to flee her home country because of a terrible war. Luckily, she landed in Melbourne, Australia, where, at 17, she was discovered. At that time, she had already known there was something different about her gender.

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That has actually given her an advantage in the modeling industry because she could model both as a woman and as a man. This made her incredibly more versatile than your average model. In 2013, she decided to commit to what she felt was her gender all along. She had sex reassignment surgery and emerged as a woman.

Yasmine Petty

Yasmine Petty is a model of Italian and Moroccan descent who has literally done it all! She modeled for “Vogue Italia,” Louis Vuitton, and starred in  “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Before she modeled, she dabbed in a few other professions, she was a stylist, a model scout, a creative director, and she even went to a culinary arts school.

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But honestly, the most impressive thing about her story is that her transness has never been the focus of what she does.  She’s an example of the fact that trans people are so much more than just trans and that they can do whatever they want to, just like the rest of us.

Geena Rocero

Like many other trans women on our list, Geena Rocero is a supermodel. She has built her way up from being a pageant girl from a working-class family in the Philippines to being an advocate for trans rights and an entrepreneur. She has founded a media production company that fights for gender equality for all.

 

She announced that she is indeed a trans woman during a Ted Talk she gave in 2014. She said that she felt like she had to share her story in order to inspire others just like her who might feel ashamed of who they are. No one should be ashamed of who they are, she said, and we agree.

Dana International

Dana International became an instant icon when she won 1998’s Eurovision Song Contest with her song “Diva.” Dana was born in Tel Aviv as the youngest of three children. As a young child, there were two things she already knew — that she felt like a woman and that she desperately wanted to become a singer. Her family was poor but supportive; her mom made sure they spent every extra penny paying for Dana’s music lessons.

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One of the truly amazing facts about Dana is that she came out at age 13, which is an early age even today. Back then, the year was 1982, and people were not as aware as they are today. She has managed to find commercial success in Israel.

Lea T

The fashion world is full of dualities. It can sometimes be the most excepting and liberated industry, but it is also known for body-shaming and gate-keeping. Still, today there are many trans women who work as fashion models, and Lea T is one of them.

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But, Leandra Medeiros Cerezo, AKA Lea T, is not your average model, she was the star of Givenchy’s most famous campaigns, she is also the daughter of a famous Brazilian football player, and during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, she even led the Brazilian football team into the arena.

Aydian Dowling

Generally speaking, there are fewer trans men represented in the media. This could be because sometimes men have a harder time accepting trans men. Usually, this stems from the idea that a trans man would never be manly enough. Aydian Dowling was determined to break all of these stereotypes.

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He began his transition in 2010, and by 2015 he found himself, a trans man, on the cover of “Men’s Health” magazine. As expected, Dowling was stoked to be the first trans man featured in the magazine. Today Aydian has a successful YouTube channel, as well as a clothing line made to fit the bodies of trans people. He has a lovely wife named Jennilee.

Balian Buschbaum

Before transitioning, Balian Buschbaum was an international athlete. Balian was born in Germany as Yvonne. As a young athlete, Yvonne was a brilliant pole-vaulter and has won the European Junior Championships at 19. Then, he made it all the way to the honorable Olympic Games. But, sadly, like many other athletes, he had to cut his career short due to an injury.

 

But we all know that when one door closes, another one opens. Having time to himself, Balian finally understood that he has felt like a man his entire life. In 2008, he underwent surgery. Since then, he has appeared on “Let’s Dance,” which is the German version of “Dancing With The Stars.” He continues being a trans, athletic icon to this day.

Chelsea Manning

The first time we heard of Manning’s name, it wasn’t in the best of circumstances. The year was 2010, and Private Bradley Manning, then 22, was accused of leaking confidential information about the U.S Army. But if you thought this is the type of controversy a person can not top in his lifetime – you’d be wrong.

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Three years later, in 2013, Manning appeared as a woman out of nowhere. Now referred to as Chelsea, she said that she’s been feeling like a woman ever since she was a child. After serving 12 years in prison, she was finally released and started a new career, writing for “The Guardian.”

Kim Petras

Originally born in Germany in 1992, today Kim Petras lives in Los Angeles. Petras is a singer-songwriter who releases music independently under her self-owned imprint, which is already cool in and of itself. Her label is called BunHead Records. Kim has found musical successes both in Germany and in America, but that isn’t the only thing that makes her special.

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Before she ever became a known musician, she lived in Cologne, a city in North Germany. Her parents reveal that she knew she was a girl since she was two years old. By 13, she came out publically on German TV. She has fought for the right to transition at a young age, and there’s a great chance she is the youngest person to have received transgender hormone therapy.

Nathan Westling

Many times it could be hard for trans people to know that they are trans. Instead, they manifest a variety of mental health issues. This was the case with Nathan. Before he came out, he spent many years trying to treat anxiety and depression without understanding what was causing them.

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Before transitioning, Nathan was a fashion model for big brands like Marc Jacobs and Saint Laurent. In 2018 he was finally ready to tell the world he’s a trans man. He decided to make the transition from Natalie to Nathan and also move from New York to  L.A. After his transition, he has moved back to New York, where he continues modeling and being handsome.

Zaya Wade

Zaya is mostly known as “the daughter of.” Her father is famous basketball player Dwyane Wade. She hasn’t had the easiest childhood; her parents got a divorce when she was a baby, and her father remarried in 2014 when she was seven years old. Five years later, in 2019, she and her family attended an LGTB parade that changed her life.

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She was still only 12 at the time, but right after that parade, she came out as a woman.  In a few interviews she gave, she has mentioned that she has felt like a girl ever since she was three years old. Luckily for her, her family supported both her identity and her decision to come out publically.

Abigail Thorn

Abigail Thorn is the woman behind the insightful YouTube channel Philosophy Tube. As the title suggests, the channel is aimed at explaining Philosophical concepts in an entertaining and approachable way. As a Philosophy graduate, she started her channel in protest of tuition fees tripling themselves in the UK in 2012. Her channel gained both popularity and critical acclaim, but all this time, there was a secret she was keeping.

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In 2021, Thorn surprised everyone by uploading a video titled “Identity: A Trans Coming Out Story,” in which she discussed philosophy, of course, but also told the world she is a transgender woman. Unlike many other trans Youtubes who document their transition, Abigail actually hid hers for a year, making her reveal as a woman truly spectacular.

Natalie Wynn

Natalie Wynn has gained her fame on YouTube. Natalie makes hour-long videos about politics, gender, and ethics. Her videos always feature incredible costumes as well as elaborate sets. Seriously, many of her videos look like a Hollywood production.

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Natalie first declared that she was non-binary, but in 2017 she came out as a transgender woman and started her transition. In 2020, she came out again. True to form, she came out as a lesbian in an hour-long YouTube video titled “Shame.”

Valentina Sampaio

Valentina Sampaio was born in a place you have probably never heard of – a small fishing community in Brazil named Ceará. Her father was, as you’d expect, a fisherman. Despite growing up in a secluded village in 1996, by the age of eight, she was already told by her psychologist that she might be trans.

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Valentina has transitioned and broken countless records. She was the first openly trans model to appear in a Victoria’s Secret’s show and a “Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.” She has booked so many modeling jobs it’s hard to keep track of them all. Like many on this list, she advocates for the trans community whenever she can.

Indya Moore

The gorgeous Indya Moore prefers to be referred to as they. Moore is both an actor and a model and is known for playing Angel Evangelista on the TV show “Pose.” The show’s success has put Indya on the map. They have numerous modeling campaigns under their belt. Most notably, they have been the face of the luxurious brand Louis Vuitton.

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Moore grew up in the Bronx and was kicked out of their childhood home at age 14 for being trans. As a black trans-person coming from poverty, they have found a way to become an incredibly successful activist and actor. They are truly living the American dream.

Jazz Jennings

Jazz was born in 2000 and is one of the youngest people to have ever come out as trans. This is to say that by 2007, Jazz was already giving interviews about being trans, including a very famous one with Barbara Walters. Jennings was diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria at the tender age of 5.

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After publically coming out at age 7, she became an advocate for LGTB rights. Jazz and her parents founded “TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation” to help trans youth. If that’s not enough, she also stars in a reality show called “I Am Jazz.”  The show follows Jazz and documents her experiences as a trans teen.

Gigi Gorgeous

Gigi was born in Canada as Gregory Lazzarato. As a teenager, Greg was a nationally ranked diving champion. At first, Greg identified as a gay man. He studied fashion at George Brown College, and at the same time, started filming makeup tutorials and uploading them to YouTube. Audiences responded very well, and by 2013, Greg had something significant to tell the world – she’s actually a woman! She announced it on her Youtube channel, and the rest is history. She changed her name to Giselle Lazzarato, but she goes by Gigi Gorgeous, well, cause she is.

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After coming out, Gigi’s popularity only continued growing. She is known for being very open about her experiences as a transwoman. She even released a movie all about her transition titled “This is Everything.” Today she is married to Nats Getty, and the two live together in a big mansion in L.A.

Cyrus Grace Dunham

Cyrus Grace Dunham, originally born just Grace Dunham, may have initially been known through his sister Lena Dunham, the famous writer and creator behind the HBO show “Girls,” but Cyrus has made a name for himself too. He an award-winning poet and writer as well as prominent trans activists, His memoir ” A Year Without A Name: A Memoir” is a reflective journey about pronouns and a diaristic view of their complex relationship to gender.

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It also gives an account of their journey to becoming Cyrus, their chosen name; interestingly, this was the “boy” name their parents had chosen while expecting.

Elliot Page

The massively famous actor Elliot Page, formerly knowns as Ellen Page, recently broke the internet with his second coming out statement. He now joins the ranks of his fellow trans peers. As a trailblazer in the LGBTQ world, Page first came out as gay in 2014 before coming forward as a masculine identifying transperson.

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Page expressed immense gratitude in his statement, expressing how happy he is to be a part of a world where he feels accepted. The actor has an enormous resume, of course, with an Oscar nomination for the film “Juno.” He currently stars in the hit Netflix show “the Umbrella Academy.”

Teddy Geiger

This talented trans pop singer and producer was featured in Rolling Stone in 2018. The musician has stated how she has felt different all her life, saying, “I can remember back to being 5 and looking in the mirror, feeling like a girl and wanting that.”

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The American musician who is currently signed to Columbia Records has also found success as an accomplished songwriter for other major artists.  She has written tracks for artists such as One Direction, Shawn Mendes, James Blunt, Tiesto, Empire of the Sun, Birdy, and DJ Snake.

Thomas Beatie

You may remember Thomas Beatie from 2007 news headlines like “World’s First Pregnant Man.” This trans-activist has dedicated his life to advocating for transgender fertility and reproductive rights. He first came out as a man in the year 1997 and completed his transition in 2002. In 2007 he underwent artificial insemination and became pregnant.

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Back then, the scandalous headlines distorted the story about a trans-man who chose to carry a child for his infertile wife. Sadly, however, in 2012, after parenting four kids together, Beatie and his wife split.

Laura Jane Grace

Recognized as the leader and frontwoman of the band “Against Me! as well as other bands, Laura Jane Grace is a rock queen to be reckoned with. In 2016 she formed the punk band Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers.

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Grace experienced gender dysphoria all her life and even published a memoir about it called “Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout.” The book was co-written by writer Dan Ozzi.

Jahna Steele

Originally a Vegas showgirl, Jahna Steele earned her star points when she was voted “Sexiest Showgirl on The Strip in 1991.” That also gave her a spot as “Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year” and the “Most Beautiful Showgirl” in 1993.

 

Jahna eventually ventured into film and TV and hosted a number of transgender beauty pageants. The performer was even featured in the film “Trantasia.”  Steele tragically passed away in 2008 from substance abuse.

Dorce Gamalama

Dorce Gamalama, who hails from Indonesia, is a transgender pop singer, actress, and TV personality. Gamalama lost her parents at a young age and was actually raised by her grandmother. It was her grandmother that introduced her to music and art.

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Years later, the young performer joined the entertainment group the Bambang Brothers; it was there that she began to reveal her female identity. Aside from the spotlight,  Gamalama has also dedicated a large part of her life to helping young orphans and the care of thousands of kids.

Buck Angel

Introducing Buck Angel. As the founder of the famous Buck Angel company, which is behind many successful adult films and related merchandise, he is probably the most famous transgender man in the world. Angel is also a huge advocate for LGTBQ rights.

 

Buck Angel is also known as being one of the pioneers of transitioning through hormone therapy. He began his transition at 28, at a time when little research was being done. After a long and complex process, Angel became the man he felt he was inside.

Angel Qinan

Known for work on “Starlet Diner,” “Act Like a Woman,” and  “Strut,”  Angel Qinan has been a prominent star in the trans and LGBTQ world. In fact, Quinan’s sister is also trans!  They have famously teamed up on the projects together.

 

According to Qinan’s autobiography, she claims to be the first trans model to have walk in the Sacramento Fashion week runway. Since then, she has appeared on countless fashion runways, including New York Fashion Week, Cabin by Stevie Boi, 3D Designs by Alexis Walsh, and Game Over by Nga Wun Mok Oxford Fashion Studio.

Peppermint

Known also as Miss Peppermint, this actress, singer, and TV personality got her start on the stage as a New York drag performer. Remember her from the ninth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race?” Peppermint then to moved on to star as Pythio in the musical “Head Over Heels.”

 

This role has made her the first transgender woman to star in a broadway role. Peppermint was already performing as a young child in the Opera Delaware Children’s Theatre and the Brandywiners Community Theatre. She then naturally pursued a  degree and studied musical theatre.

Calpernia Addams

Calpernia Addams is one of the loudest voices out there for transgender rights and issues. But would you believe that before that, she served with the Navy and US Marine Corps? She actually came out in her last year of service.

 

You may recognize the name Calpernia from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” Clearly, Addams has a penchant for the theater because her own play was shortlisted for the Feminist Fest Award and several more.

Harmony Santana

Harmony Santana got her moment in the spotlight in the 2011 film “Gun Hill Road.”  Her performance earned her Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress, making her the first trans-woman to be nominated for this significant award. Interestingly, Stanana lived in Green Chimneys while working for the film. At the time, the young actress lived in a group home for LGBTQ youth in Manhattan.

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Her time there inspired her to become a spokesperson for the Homeless Youth and Bullying. Today her acting skills are landing her more and more mesmerizing roles in a number of shows and films.

Zackary Drucker

Zackary Drucker is a multi-media artist who has had her works exhibited in various galleries, museums, and film festivals, most notably the Whitney Biennial, MoMA PS1, Hammer Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, and more.

 

Drucker also made a significant contribution to the “Transparent” series as a script consultant. In 2015 she participated in the Caitlyn Jenner docu-series on E!  Back in 2015.

Angelica Ross

There’s a lot more to Angelica Ross than meets the eye. Not only is she an actress and a transgender rights advocate, but she has also created her own tech company, TransTech Social Enterprise. This talented personality is completely self-taught in code and has been using her skills to empower other trans people in the tech community.

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Ross made her acting debut in the web series “Her Story” in 2016. Her excellent performance quickly opened up the doors to more opportunities, such as shows like “Pose”  and  “American Horror Story.”

Alexandra Billings

Alexandra Billings played the beloved Davina (Maura’s bestie and mentor) on the hit show “Transparent.”  The actress is the second openly transgender woman to have played a trans role on TV. Before that, she appeared in the TV movie ‘Romy and Michele: In the Beginning” “ER”  Eli Stone, “How to Get Away with Murder,” and  “Grey’s Anatomy.”

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Apart from acting, Billings is a major advocate for LGBTQ rights and HIV awareness. In 2016 she received the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award, an award annually given to esteemed members of the LGBTQ community.

Christine Jorgensen

Christine Jorgensen is considered to be the first person to undergo gender reassignment surgery in history. The Bronx native left to pursue a degree as soon as her military service was done in the year 1945. It was during this time that she learned about transitioning genders.

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The student then left for Denmark, the only country at the time to be performing surgeries of this sort. There she also began hormone treatment. Her return to New York was met with mad fascination, throwing her in the spotlight, a position Jorgensen wasn’t always happy with, but with her charisma and wit, the trans-icon charmed America and gave a face to the movement.

Jake Zyrus

Born Charice Pempengco, Jake Zyrus is a singer and TV personality hailing from the Philippines who rose to fame on the Ellen Show. He has had many international TV appearances and even performed with artists like David Foster and Andrea Bocelli. After establishing a successful singing career, Zyrus joined the cast of “Glee.” in 2010 as Sunshine Corazon.

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Zyrus’s transition started relatively recently. In an interview with Papermag, he said, “I am always thankful for the life of Charice that I experienced and the music that I shared, but that obviously belongs to her, it’s not for me. I’m letting her go and be free.”

Our Lady J

One of the major voices behind the shows “Transparent” and “Pose,” Our Lady J is a key person in bringing these shows to life. Aside from television writing and production, she is also a classically trained pianist and singer.

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In fact, she moved to the big city in order to be a musical director. When her album “Picture of a Man” earned attention, since then, our Lady J has been flying.

Jamie Clayton

This incredible actress, Jamie Clayton, garnered attention for her role as Nomi Marks in the Netflix original series “Sense8″ (created by the Wachowski sisters). She then returned to our screens in the iconic character of Sasha Booker in”Designated Survivor’s” third season.

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You would be surprised to learn that Clayton wasn’t even an actress prior to all this success, but a make-up artist and host of VH1’s show “TRANSform Me.” The actress continues to land juicy roles in shows and even narrated for an audiobook.

Kate Bornstein

Here we have entertainer, author, and transgender intellectual (she’s been called a gender theorist) Kate Bornstein. While she focuses heavily on matters of gender, her literary works often address eating and personality disorders.

 

This multi-talented performance artist has had her battles. Bornstein is a PTSD survivor and has also been diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder. She remains active in the world of performance art and has continued to write books.

Trace Lysette

Trace Lysette entered the spotlight in the critically acclaimed Amazon series “Transparent.” But before she hit the big time, Lysette was finding herself in the New York City underground ball scene, performing in bars and clubs around the city. You can also check out her incredible dance moves in the 2019 film “Hustlers.”

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Lysette made her debut on TV for an episode of  Law & Order: Special victims Unit in 2013, and of course, the opportunities grew from there as “Transparent” is one of the greatest shows about trans-people and one of the greatest shows in history.

Alexis Arquette

Alexis Arquette came from the Arquette family, so that already says something for her acting chops. Arquette was a poet, activist, acting teacher, and even a therapist. Her trans identity came to the forefront when she began performing as a female impersonator under the pseudonym Eva Destruction.

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In 2014, Arquette completed her gender reassignment surgery. You can see her transition story in the 2007  film “Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother.” Tragically, Alexis Arquette passed away due to complications related to HIV in 2016.

Candis Cayne

Candis Cayne started out in the underground New York City nightclubs and drags scene in the ‘90s and officially came out six years later. But her real rise to fame happened on ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money,” where she landed a recurring transgender role on the hit show.

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Cayne has expressed that she never really intended on being a transgender role model, just a happy human being. Well, she certainly is both.

Carmen Carrera

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention ” RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Seeing as the focus on that show is a drag, the show is obviously no stranger to the colorful world of the gender spectrum, and Carmen Carrera is at the center of it. The model and burlesque queen also starred in the RuPaul spinoff  “RuPaul’s Drag U.”

 

Carrera has since become an icon in the LGBTQ community and a role- model to many.  There was even a petition in 2013 to include her in  Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Unfortunately, 45,000 signatures didn’t cut it. We’re rooting for her.

Amanda Lepore

As an iconic performing artist and model, Amanda Lepore got her foot in the door of New York’s crazy nightlife as a Club Kid member. Lepore then caught the attention of famous photographers like Ruben Van Schalm, David LaChapelle, and Terry Richardson, who were instrumental in creating her voyeuristic style exhibitions.

 

Lepore has also proved her savvy business skills through her involvement with successful investments in brands and various collaborations such as Swatch and CAMP cosmetics.

Erika Ervin

Professionally known as Amazon Eve, Erika Ervin was born on February 23, 1979, and is known as a successful model, actress, and fitness trainer. You might remember her from “American Horror Story: Freak Show” and  “American Horror Story: Apocalypse.”

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At six feet and 8 inches tall, Ervin will certainly catch your eye. As someone who has battled with both her gender and her weight, Ervin is now a strong advocate for body positivity.

Janet Mock

It generally takes an entire movement to make a change, but now and again, along comes an individual that really shakes things up. And that is Janet Mock. The TV host, filmmaker, and activist even wrote a New York Times Bestseller called “Redefining Realness” and a second memoir, “Surpassing Certainty.”

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Aside from her thriving literary career, Mock is the driving force behind the mega-successful “Pose.” The writer, director, and producer of the show became the first transwoman of color to be hired as a show-runner for a TV series.

Isis King

Isis King shot to fame for being the first transgender woman to compete in the reality TV show “America’s Next Top Model” in both the eleventh and seventeenth cycle. At the time, it was groundbreaking, and Tyra Banks was naturally impressed with her, which is why King returned to the show.

 

Isis undoubtedly made an impact on the show and made a huge contribution to transgender representation in television and especially the modeling world. Keep breaking those stigmas!

Chaz Bono

As the son of two music greats (Sonny and Cher), Chaz Bono is bound to have some creative genes. The transgender-personality and activist is author and musician. His works detail his transition process as well as coming out in his pre-transition days. His life is also the subject of a documentary entitled “Becoming Chaz.”

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Bono’s life and the intricacies of his transition have been incredibly public, and he was also featured in a two-part special on Entertainment Tonight in the year 2009. That’s what happens if you’re Cher’s son!

Fallon Fox

As a retired MMA fighter, Fallon Fox is known as the first openly transgender person in MMA history. The athlete has struggled with her identity throughout her life. According to Fox, she discovered the term transgender at 17 years old but did not transition until later and even married her then-girlfriend at 19 years old.

 

The two share a daughter together. A few years later, Fox got her successful reassignment surgery in Thailand and thankfully forged a career for herself as a successful MMA fighter.

Wachowski Sisters

It’s a life-changing moment when one family member transitions, so imagine two! That’s what happened when the Wachowski brothers became the Wachowski sisters. And if you think you’re not familiar with them, think again. These were the brains behind the massively successful film ” The Matrix” and TV series  “Sense8.”

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The sisters both won the Saturn Award for Best Director. Following the huge success of the film, the Wachowski sisters got the green light to write and direct two more sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded”  and  “The Matrix  Revolutions.” The sisters have also been vocal about trans rights and issues, most notably Lana Wachowski at a recent LGBTQ event.

Caitlyn Jenner

Possibly one of the most famous trans people in the world today, Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Olympic gold-winning athlete, Bruce Jenner, is a force to be reckoned with. Jenner gained TV stardom on the hit reality show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” as Kris’s former spouse. However, in 2014, everything changed, and she revealed in a Diane Sawyer interview that she wanted to be recognized as a woman.

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The next few years consisted of more outings and her very own reality show called “I am Cait,”  which detailed her transition into a woman. Aside from the entertainment aspect, Jenner has successfully managed several lucrative business investments, has dabbled in acting and even race-car driving.

Laverne Cox

Like “Pose,” there has been another show that has given a platform to trans-folks, and that is the hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” Luckily for us,  that is exactly where we discovered the great Laverne Cox as the iconic Sophia Burset. Cox’s performance earned her a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award, making her the first openly transgender person to be nominated after music composer Angela Morely back in 1990.

 

And if that wasn’t enough for you, the OINTB star also was the first transgender to play an actual transgender role in the CBS TV series “Doubt.” Talk about progress.

Lauren Harries

Born as James Charles Harries, this popular British star got a unique start in the limelight. While many trans performers take to the stage as singers, actors, or even dancers, Harries was appearing on TV at just age 13 discussing art and antique furniture in bow-ties like a man five times his age. Years later that Lauren would transition to a woman. But it wasn’t easy.

 

Being in the limelight at such a young age came at a cost, and she became the victim of a lot of torment and bullying. Still, that didn’t stop the trans icon. Harries continued to appear in a number of reality shows as a woman, including “Celebrity Big Brother,” “Big Brother’s Bit on the Side,” and “This Morning.” The TV personality has also appeared in documentaries about her transition.

Marie Pierre Pruvot

One of the most interesting things about the trans world is picking your own fabulous birth name, and this is one pretty great. This French performer is also known as Marie-Pier Yasser or Bambi. She was born in Algeria on November 11, 1935, and was simply destined to be on stage.

 

Pruvot was a showgirl for nearly 20 years and has frequently appeared in documentaries relating to performance and gender throughout her career. She was also in the award-winning documentary film “Bambi,” which detailed her life. When not in front of the camera, Pruvot is also a teacher in literature.

Bibiana Fernández

Also known as Bibi Andersen — or the full name, Bibiana Manuela Fernández Chica. this trans personality is a Spanish actress, TV presenter, and model born on February 13, 1954. Fernández’s most well-known performances can be seen in” Rowing with the Wind,” “Law of Desire,” and “Matador.”

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The Spanish actress completed her transition in 1991 and, three years later, legally changed her name. In the love department, the performer was married to the Cuban model Asdrúbal Ametlle. Sadly that marriage only lasted a few years, but we’re sure Bibiana is doing just fine!

Eva Robin

Of course, the trans community goes far beyond the bounds of the United States, and you can find many trans celebrities around the world. Eva Robin, the Italian trans activist, is an example of this. Robin has claimed that she felt her true identity as young as 13 years old. Robin expressed how comfortable she is with her body and that she has no need for additional procedures.

 

As a vocal trans personality, Robin has fought hard to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community. Aside from that, she also models and acts and is probably most known for her performance in Dario Argentino’s film “Tenebrae.”

Dominique Jackson

As time passes and the world opens up, trans personalities find themselves more and more in the mainstream. Such is the case for Dominique Jackson. This actress, author, model, and reality television personality landed in the spotlight over her leading role in the FX television series “Pose.” The series has garnered major critical acclaim (as does with anything Ryan Murphy involved.)

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Aside from her starring role in the hit show, Jackson appeared in other shows like  “Chick Fight” and  “American Gods” and even bagged herself a GLAAD Media Award nomination for her role in the reality TV series “Strut.”

Ian Harvie

While many on this list have been fierce political activists, Ian Harvie has contributed in his own unique way, and that is with comedy. What better way to raise serious issues after all? Harvie is considered to be one of the most groundbreaking transgendered comedians and even opened for mega comic Margaret Cho in the late 2000s.

 

He has dealt with very sensitive subjects relating to gender and identity, and all with incredible humor. Both emotional and funny, his show told the story about his operations and awkward encounters throughout his transition that took place between the ages of 19 to 32.

Mimi Marks

During the ’80s, Mimi Marks was considered one of the most beautiful transgender models in the world, which makes sense seeing as she was an extremely popular pageant queen, showcasing her beauty and grace around the country and was even flooded with offers from Hollywood. The model has been living as a woman since the young of 21.

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The pageant queen even won Ms. Waterloo in 1986 and has since continued to join and win in Miss International Queen, Pattaya Thailand: The World’s Most Beautiful Transsexual Contest, and many more! Mimi Marks is a real game-changer and is believed to be the first transgender runway model in the world.

Jackie Curtis

Born John Curtis Holder Jr., Jackie Curtis was, above anything else, an artist. She was also another one of Andy Warhol’s star performers, happy to get on stage and perform freely. Curtis was active on the theater circuit, performing in the Bastianos Theater, Pyramid, as well as a few other theaters around Manhattan. The actress was praised for depicting powerful female roles that would transcend all stereotypes. However, that wasn’t her only talent.

 

In later years Jackie Curtis went on to establish herself as a distinguished writer and poet and published a number of her pieces. Curtis sadly died in 1985 after a long battle with substance abuse. Her friends and loved ones laid her to rest using so much glitter that one could spot the shimmering sparkles from the highway. It sounds like a great way to remember her.

Sylvia Rivera

This incredibly fearless transgender rights activist was a Latina American who was at the forefront of the Gay Liberation Front. “Armed” with heavy make-up, and stunning drag outfits, Sylvia Rivera participated in community movements throughout New York City. The activist would famously partner up with her close friend and fellow Marsha P. Johnson. Together they even co-founded their biggest investment — the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).

 

The two would also reach out to other drag queens who struggled with their identity; many were homeless or forced into undesirable work just for survival. Riveria wrote an essay entitled Transvestites: Your Half Sisters and Half Brothers of the Revolution. In it, she discussed the term “transvestite” and raised awareness on how to use it, as well as other terms. The LGBTQ heroine was also heavily involved in Metropolitan Community Church of New York, helping out, distributing meals to hungry people.

Sophia Lamar

Born Enrique Muñoz, this trans celebrity has been active in the New York City entertainment and LGBTQ cinema scene. It was, however, back home in Cuba, where Lamar made a name for herself in the Cuban underground scene in the ’80s. Since then, the actress and producer has some credits to her name, such as “Adam Green’s Aladdin, “The Zanctuary,” and  “Candy Apple.”

 

But more than that, Sophia Lamar has been the face of many big brands such as Levi’s and Trash & Vaudville and once even for the NYU School of Medicine Center for AIDS Research. The activist and entertainer’s celebrity status has undoubtedly helped create a platform for the trans community and the youth of today.

Andrea James

When it comes to bringing trans-issues to mainstream cinema, activist and filmmaker Andrea James had a big hand in that. Born on January 16, 1967, James has been behind numerous organizations that have shaped trans spaces, from film representation to medical advice. She was a script consultant for the iconic film “Trans Amerca,” which chronicled the journey of a transwoman before her gender reassignment surgery while discovering her 17-year-old son.

 

The activist and producer has also been involved in consumer activism by focusing on medical and academic fraud as well as formulating a guide to safe and correct procedures relating to transitioning; Andrea herself transitioned herself during the ’90s. She even founded the nonprofit GenderMedia, a giant in the trans community that serves trans representation.

Octavia Saint Laurent

Known as Octavia Saint Laurent: Queen of the Underground, this model, actress, and activist was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 16, 1964. The performer is probably best known for appearing in “Paris is Burning,” a beautiful and telling documentary about the underground ball scene in New York.

 

The activist also had an even longer name as she legally changed it to Heavenly Angel Octavia Saint Laurent Manolo Blahnik before ultimately going with Octavia Saint Laurent Mizrahi. Yep! That is one long name, and of course, fit for a queen. On May 17, 2009, the trans icon passed away, but her memory lives on.

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson was a renowned icon in the LGBTQ community. She rose to prominence in the battle for trans acceptance, as well as in her fight for awareness about HIV within her community. She made her mark as a staunch activist dedicated to challenging social norms. Aside from Marsha’s activism, she was also known as a popular drag performer in the underground ball scene and even one of the performers in Andy Warhol’s “Factory.”

 

Johnson’s name has resurfaced in recent years in a string of documentaries about her life and impact on the Stonewall Uprising, an event that later became the inspiration for the annual Pride Parade. A lot of the footage depicts her performances as well as interviews with her peers talking about her passions and beliefs. Marsha P. Johnson died in 1992, but her passing is still a mystery.

Holly Woodlawn

Holly Woodlawn was born Haraldo Santiago Franceschi Rodriguez on October 26, 1946, and hailed from Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico. Her chosen name was a combination of Audrey Hepburn’s character “Holly” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and an episode of “I Love Lucy.” Just by that alone, it’s clear that Woodlawn was enamored by the entertainment world. At just the young age of 16, Holly journeyed to the Big Apple in the hopes of being an actress.

 

Her memory “A Low Life in High Heels” gives the account of her survival on the street as a high school dropout. Woodlawn landed some film roles, including “Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers,” “Women in Revolt,”  and  “Alibi. ” She also founded the Holly Woodlawn Memorial Fund for the Transgender Youth at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

April Ashley

April Ashley was a true pioneer who, during the ’60s, gave a real face to the trans community in Britain. Born George Jamieson, the trans star was a model and actress, mostly active in Paris. Ashley suffered for many years from frail health but joined the Merchant Navy at 16, presumably as an attempt to follow in her father’s footsteps.

 

After her stint in the military, she moved to Paris and entered the entertainment industry. There she performed as a model and actress and even once again saved up enough money to have gender reassignment surgery. Ashely’s story was outed against her will in an article in the British magazine “Sunday People.” Though initially damaging, she unknowingly contributed to a more accepting world.

Candy Darling

Candy Darling was like a Golden Cinema starlet. Born as James Lawrence Slattery on November 24, 1944. Raised in Long Island, New York, Candy got her start in cinema, starring in a string of films such as “Women Revolt,” “Silent Night,” “Bloody Night,”  and  “Flesh.” Of course, back then, revealing one’s transgender identity was almost unheard of, and the world was far less forgiving.

 

The actress went on to forge a successful showbiz career. In fact, Candy Darling was one of the most prominent pop artists and filmmakers of that time. Andy Warhol took a liking to her and, as she was one of his repertory performers, appearing in two of his films. Unfortunately, at the tender age of  29, Candy’s life ended. Her life became the subject of a documentary called “Beautiful Darling.”