10 Trailblazing Transgender Celebrities

laverne cox

To celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility we run down 10 trans trailblazers who have changed the world for the better and whose influence have made a difference, no matter how small, to the world.


1. Janet Mock

janet mock

Former staff editor at People Magazine, Janet revealed herself as transgender in 2011. Since coming out, Janet has become an LGBT advocate and manages many LGBT programmes. She is a successful author and an outspoken trans* activist, writing for the likes of The Huffington Post and xojane.

2. Chaz Bono

chaz bono

Son of Cher and Sonny Bono, Chaz was outed as a lesbian in 1995 by the tabloid press. But it was only in 2008 that Chaz began his gender transition, before legally changing his name and gender in 2010. Chaz has become one of the most famous transgender celebrities, with a documentary on his life screened at Sundance Film Festival. Since coming out as trans, he has been able to use his notoriety as a way to open up the discussion of transgender issues.

3. Chelsea Manning

chelsea manning

Chelsea, a US Army soldier, is famous for the biggest leak of classified documents in US history. Chelsea revealed herself to be a transgender woman to the public upon her arrest. She had been diagnosed with ‘gender identity disorder’ while in the army and has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for her public leaking of documents on Afghanistan and Iraq. Her reveal of her transgender status has forced those in the army and the law to recognise trans people where they may not have before.

4. Brandon Teena


The subject of film Boys Don’t Cry, Brandon’s story and subsequent death was a catalyst for the charge of ‘hate crimes’ in the US – crimes based on someone’s race, sex, gender and/or sexuality. The crime, and the film afterwards, brought Brandon’s story to light and allowed people to see the tragic face of hate crimes.

5. Laverne Cox

laverne cox

What list would be complete without the glorious Laverne? The role of OITNB‘s Sophia has made Laverne the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category. Her show TRANSform Me made her the first African-American transgender person to star in, and produce, her own show. Laverne is currently one of the most outspoken LGBT activists in the public eye. Her role of Sophia also showed how transgender people can be treated in the legal and prison system.

6. Caroline Cossey

caroline cossey

English model Caroline was distinctly feminine in appearance due to a variant of a condition known as Klinefelter’s syndrome, where, instead of having the XY male chromosome pattern, she possesses the genotype XXXY. She is the first trans woman to be a Bond girl. Starring in the film, For Your Eyes Only, she also appeared in Playboy and as a Page 3 model for The Sun newspaper.

7. Dr. Marci Bowers

marci bowers

An American gynecologist, Bowers is viewed as an innovator in the field of transgender surgery, as well as a pioneer, being the first trans woman to be performing the surgery. She was named the only physician member of the Washington State Midwifery Board. She is named as one of “America’s Best Physicians” for the 2002 to 2003 awards, and is a member-elect of the European Academy of Sciences. Bowers also puts her expertise in vaginoplasty at the disposal of victims of female genital mutilation, whom she does not charge for surgery.

8. Thomas Beatie

thomas beatie

Thomas – best known for being ‘The Pregnant Man’ – is an advocate for trans fertility and reproductive rights. He successfully birthed three children with his wife, through the use of cryogenic sperm. They filed for divorce in 2012, and it’s the first case of its kind where a documented legal male gave birth within a traditional marriage to a woman. The case could be significant regarding marriage, divorce, and reproductive rights for transgender people in the state of Arizona and around the country.

9. Katastrophe

katastrophe transgender rapper

Rapper and producer Katastrophe is recognised as the first out transgender man in hip-hop and he incorporates his identity as a trans man into his work. He raps about lives lived outside the mainstreams of gender. He uses his struggle as a trans* man and his contested place in contemporary hip-hop to discuss larger issues of community, space, privilege, sex.

10. Isis King

Isis is a model and transgender activist who was brought to fame on America’s Next Top Model. Discovered by Tyra Banks, she partook in the 11th and 17th seasons of the show, and has since become a full-time model and fashion designer. She was the first transgender woman on the series and has been lauded as one of the most visible and popular trans* people on television.


© 2014 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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