Transgender visibility has reached new heights in Hollywood and beyond. Here are 28 inspiring transgender celebrities who have broken barriers for themselves and others.
Elliot PageGetty Images
“Umbrella Academy” star Page came out as transgender on Dec. 1, 2020.
“I feel lucky to be writing this,” he wrote on social media. “To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life. I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey. I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self.”
Laverne CoxGetty Images for dcp
Cox quickly became one of the most visible trans actresses with the rise of “Orange Is the New Black,” on which she had a starring role. But despite her celebrity, Cox has continued to deal with harassment over her identity: She revealed in November 2020 that she and a friend were the targets of an attack she believed was transphobic while they were walking in LA’s Griffith Park.
Isis KingGetty Images
King, the first transgender woman to compete on “America’s Next Top Model,” has been making inroads since her groundbreaking appearance on the show, most recently appearing in an episode of HBO’s “Equal.”
“I feel like our voices are just now starting to be heard,” King told Page Six in November 2020. “So it was very inspiring to hear stories from that far back of these people who didn’t have anybody else like them around and just had their own courage to make it work.”
Valentina Sampaio in the 2020 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issueSports Illustrated
In July 2020, Sampaio became the first transgender model to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. She also made history in 2019 by becoming Victoria’s Secret’s first-ever openly transgender model.
“Brazil is a beautiful country, but it also hosts the highest number of violent crimes and murders against the trans community in the world — three times that of the US,” Sampaio wrote of her native country in a personal essay for SI. “Our options for growing up in a loving and accepting family, having a fruitful experience at school or finding dignified work are unimaginably limited and challenging. I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can.”
Dwyane Wade, Zaya Wade and Gabrielle Union in Richfresh at the Better Brothers Los Angeles Truth AwardsGetty Images
Dwyane Wade’s child Zaya “[knew she was transgender] since she was 3 years old,” Wade told “Good Morning America” in August 2020. “Along this way we’ve asked questions and we’ve learned. But she’s known.”
Wade revealed Zaya was transgender in August 2020 on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
Jazz JenningsAFP/Getty Images
Trans activist and reality star Jennings became a high-profile face for transgender individuals with appearances on “20/20” and Rosie O’Donnell’s show in the 2000s when she was in elementary school. Jennings dealt with a setback in her gender transition in 2018, but in January 2020 posted a picture on Instagram that proudly showed off scars from her procedures, calling them “my battle wounds because they signify the strength and perseverance it took to finally complete my transition.”
Zach BarackAFP via Getty Images
Barack became the first openly transgender actor to appear in a Marvel film with 2019’s “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
“The truth is you have to put out there what people want to see and what people need to see,” he said. “And as a young person who is trans, I didn’t see a trans man on TV ever, ever, really, until I was like, 17,” Barack said at the time. “So having a fun movie about a class going on a trip together, and I get to be part of that, I can’t even …”
Miriam Rivera Getty Images
Rivera, who died in 2019 at the age of 38, was the first openly transgender reality TV star, best known for being a cast member of the 2004 dating show “There’s Something About Miriam” and “Big Brother Australia.”
An active member of the New York’s ballroom scene as part of the House of Xtravaganza, Rivera was honored by the House on Instagram when she died.
Indya Moore on Jason Wu’s runway during New York Fashion Week.Getty Images For NYFW: The Shows
“Pose” star Indya Moore revealed in 2019 that she was a victim of sex trafficking when she was a teen and trying to pay for female hormones.
But with “Pose,” Moore said in the same Elle interview — she was the magazine’s first transgender cover star — “I just knew my life was going to change.”
“I knew I had a chance to teach the world something that would help more people to be safe.”
Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane GraceRedferns
Against Me! frontwoman Laura Jane Grace became one of alternative music’s trans trailblazers with their transition, documented on the band’s “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” record. “I wish I’d have addressed all this earlier, because I could have been much further along with getting myself together,” Grace told the Post in 2014. “I’m a lot happier not having to deny it all.”
Michael D. Cohen
Michael D. CohenGetty Images for The Trevor Proj
Michael D. Cohen, who voices the character Schwoz Schwartz on Nickelodeon’s longest-running live-action sitcom, “Henry Danger,” revealed he was transgender in 2019, having transitioned decades ago before his career took off. “The level of — let’s be polite — misunderstanding around trans issues is so profound and so destructive,” he said in May 2019. “When you disempower one population, you disempower everybody.”
Nathan WestlingAFP via Getty Images
Flame-haired Fashion Week fixture Westling, whose resume includes work for Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton along with Chanel and Miu Miu, revealed to CNN Style in March 2019 that he began taking testosterone approximately six months ago, and planned to get top surgery and return to fashion in the future. “It feels like I’ve been wearing like a mask my whole life,” he told CNN. “I’m not wearing a skin that I don’t feel I am anymore.”
Teddy GeigerGetty Images for Billboard
Musician Geiger came out as trans in October 2017, explaining a year later that “At a certain point I realized that I was born uncomfortable. I was born in this in-between where I want to express one way.”
“Nobody really knew me, and all of this stuff that now on a day to day basis I don’t have to deal with. It is a huge weight lifted,” she said.
Kim PetrasGetty Images
Petras made history as the youngest person to undergo sexual gender reassignment surgery at 16, then moved to LA to pursue music, becoming one of the pop sphere’s modern trans groundbreakers.
“Some people think that if you’re a transgender [artist], that’s all you can do and all your messaging should be about,” she told Page Six in October 2018. “But I write about human emotions, human feelings. And I think everyone can relate to that.”
Caitlyn Jenner Getty Images
Jenner’s 2015 Vanity Fair cover confirming her transition added a new dimension to the former Olympian’s fame as part of the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” media conglomerate. Jenner has at times struggled with reconciling that with her family; the Kardashians distanced themselves from her following the release of Caitlyn’s 2017 memoir, “Secrets of My Life,” which includes juicy family tidbits and claims ex-wife Kris Jenner was aware of her struggle with gender identity.
Andreja PejicGetty Images for NGV
Fashion-world darling Pejic had made a name for themselves by modeling in both female and male clothing but made their runway debut as a woman in 2015.
“I figured out who I was very early on — actually, at the age of 13, with the help of the Internet — so I knew that a transition, becoming a woman, was always something I needed to do,” she told Style.com.
Alexis ArquetteJoshua Blanchard
Arquette, who died in 2016, was a fearless advocate for LGBTQ rights in Hollywood, using her position in the famous family of actors as a sometimes-bully-pulpit against individuals she thought were being insufficiently open about their identity — famously, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett.
“I’m in mourning every day of my life, Alexis, and I will be the rest of my life for you until we change the world so that trans people are not persecuted and give them jobs,” her sister Patricia said in her 2019 Emmy acceptance speech.
Lilly and Lana WachowskiGetty
The Wachowskis — who helmed the iconic “Matrix” series — had both transitioned to female by 2016. “Everyone is cool with it,” Lilly wrote in March 2016. “Yes, thanks to my fabulous sister they’ve done it before, but also because they’re fantastic people.”
“Now that I’m out and a living example of someone who can grow old being a trans woman, [trans people] can see those films through the lens of my transness and their transness,” Lilly told The Hollywood Reporter in June 2020. “They’re able to go, ‘Oh my God, these films were such an important part of my coming out and my own journey.’ I’m extraordinarily grateful that I could offer that to people.”
Getty Images for Family Equality
Cayne became the first transgender woman to play a transgender character on network television in 2007 opposite William Baldwin in the ABC drama “Dirty Sexy Money.” She notched a new level of fame via her friendship with Caitlyn Jenner and appearances in Jenner’s “I Am Cait” series.
Janet MockGetty Images for Netflix
Author and activist Mock has long been in the trenches fighting for LGBTQ rights and most recently made history by becoming the first trans woman of color hired as a writer for a TV series in history for her work on Ryan Murphy’s FX hit “Pose” (she also directed the show’s sixth episode, another milestone).
“Instead of just turning the lens only on the murder, the violence, the abuse, and the space of lack,” Mock told Marie Claire of her career in August 2020, “you then turn the camera and you say that actually in this space that you see as a space of lack, we’re thriving.”
Lea TDave Benett/Getty Images for Bur
Fashion-world darling Lea T — née Leandra Medeiros Cerezo — became one of high fashion’s trans icons when then-Givenchy senior designer Ricardo Tisci discovered her. The Brazilian-born, Italy-raised model subsequently became Tisci’s muse and close friend, and she adopted the first letter of his surname in tribute, leading campaigns for Burberry when Tisci became chief creative officer there. In 2014, Lea T became the first trans model to land a Redken contract, and in 2016, she became the first trans person to participate in an Olympic opening ceremony, leading the Brazilian team into the stadium on a bike.
Chaz BonoGetty Images
As the child of Cher and Sonny Bono, Chaz was born to pop-culture prominence. As an activist and writer, Bono’s celebrity helped them to become an early LGTBQ touchstone for many Americans — helped along by the 2011 OWN documentary chronicling their transition, “Becoming Chaz” — and they notched another milestone by becoming the first-ever trans contestant on “Dancing With the Stars” the same year.
Wendy CarlosBettmann Archive
Synthesizer pioneer Carlos became a minor celebrity in the late 1960s after helping develop the soon-to-be-ubiquitous Moog instrument and recording her debut, “Switched-On Bach,” a landmark album of Bach compositions played on early synths that was an out-of-nowhere, best-selling, multiple-Grammy-winning hit. Collaborations with Stanley Kubrick (“A Clockwork Orange” and “The Shining”) followed, and Carlos subsequently became an early trans pioneer in the music world following an incredibly candid, far-ranging interview with Playboy that delved into her transition.
Ines RauGetty Images For Paco Rabanne
Rau’s appearance in a steamy spread with Tyson Beckford in French magazine OOB in 2013 — shortly after coming out as trans — paved the way for groundbreaking appearances in Playboy in 2013 and 2017. Rau became the first openly trans woman to appear in the mag, following her own inspiration …
Caroline CosseyRon Galella Collection via Getty
Cossey was thrust into the role of figurehead for the trans community when she was involuntarily outed by the British tabloid News of the World in the 1980s after her appearance in the James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only.”
“I was destroyed overnight,” Cossey said in 2016. “There was nothing I could do and my life was in tatters so I ran away. I hid from the limelight because it was the only way to feel safe.”
Cossey bounced back and became the first transgender woman to pose for Playboy in 1991, going on to become an important activist in Europe as she petitioned to change the laws around marriage for trans individuals.
Multi-hyphenate Nef has broken barriers across a variety of mediums, becoming the first transgender woman to cover a major British magazine (Elle in 2016) a year after becoming modeling agency IMG’s first transgender signee. She’s written for multiple publications and landed roles in Amazon’s “Transparent” and Netflix’s “You,” telling Page Six in 2019 that “Modeling taught me how to relax in front of a camera and acting taught me how to tell stories using my body — even if the script is a piece of clothing.”
Jenna TalackovaToronto Star via Getty Images
Talackova entered the history books in 2012 when, after securing entry to Miss Universe Canada, she was outed by someone who recognized her from a 2010 Thai beauty pageant for transgender women. The Miss Universe pageant disqualified Talackova, who contacted famed feminist lawyer Gloria Allred, who took on the case and challenged the pageant. The organization reversed its stance under the pressure, and Tackova made it into the top 12 contestants before losing out, though she was one of the pageant’s Miss Congeniality winners that year.
Ian HarvieGetty Images
Stand-up comic Harvie embarked on his comedy career in 2002, subsequently being taken under the wing of comedy icon Margaret Cho, who made Harvie a permanent member of her off-Broadway burlesque comedy revue. Harvie has addressed his transition throughout his now-international career — memorably titling his one-man show “Parts Sold Separately” — and achieved a new level of prominence with a role in “Transparent,” becoming the first transgender male actor to portray a transitioned trans man on a scripted American television show.
Originally published at https://pagesix.com/article/inspirational-transgender-celebrities/ on .