LGBTQ+ visibility in the mainstream media is now a lot different than it was decades or even a few years ago.
There are many prominent trans roles who are now written into storylines on television and film. Hollywood is much more aware of bringing transgender visibility to the public. Trans celebrity is no longer being avoided, but celebrated by the industry.
These are the incredibly talented and inspiring transgender celebrities that are helping change the public perception on what being your authentic self truly means.
The Canadian star of a hit Netflix series “Umbrella Acadamy” made an announcement about being a transgender male on social media in December 2020. Page wrote that he felt lucky to be a trans man, and have arrived at a place where he could be himself.
Elliot Page later announced that he was recovering from a life saving and changing top surgery. He also posted a photo of himself poolside that won praise and support from his colleagues and former co-stars including Julianne Moore, Jameela Jamil, and Nina Dobrev.
In a Vanity Fair interview, Elliot Page talked about human rights, anti-trans legislation in the United States that is wrapped up in misinformation and lies, and his goals on changing the perception of trans individuals beyond Hollywood.
Laverne Cox is by far one of the most visible trans actors in the world. The transgender actress rose to fame for her starring role as a transgender inmate Sophia Burset on a hit series “Orange Is the New Black”. Laverne Cox is the first openly transgender person to win a Daytime Emmy Award.
In addition to her many awards for acting, Laverne Cox has also made history on the covers of magazines. She is the first trans woman to appear on Cosmopolitan, the first openly transgender woman to graze the cover of Time magazine, and be featured on their top 100 list.
Laverne Cox is an outspoken LGBTQ+ advocate. She frequently uses her position in Hollywood to bring awareness to trans issues. Laverne Cox also launched a popular hashtag on social media #transisbeautiful to highlight the beauty of transgender folks.
Jazz Jennings is one of the most prominent transgender rights activists in the world. The surprising fact may be that Jennings is only 20 years old. She gained notoriety when she was the only child on television to talk about trans folks at the very tender age of 6 years old. Jennings and her family opened up their home to Barbara Walters for an exclusive look at the life of transgender people.
Jennings became a voice for transgender activist for trans rights of children everywhere. After the episode of 20/20 aired, she appeared on countless television shows including “The Rosie Show” as well as a special interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Jennings is also a reality tv star with her own tv shot on TLC called “I Am Jazz” in which she showcased the details of her transition and surgery, a published book and has recently was one of the top speakers on Taimi Talks discussing Transgender dating, relationships, mental and body wellness and so much more alongside her brother Sander.
Sampaio is a trailblazer. Not only is she the first openly transgender model to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, but Sampaio is also the first openly trans woman to become a Victoria’s Secret model.
Brazilian-born beauty Valentina Sampaio is a very outspoken trans activist. She comes from a country where the violence against trans individuals is one of the highest in the world.
“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,” she said in a personal essay for Sports Illustrated. “I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can.”, Sampaio added
Valentina tends to use her fame as a famous first trans model from Brazil to raise awareness of trans issues and address the violence against trans women in her native country and around the world.
Caitlyn Jenner is known for being in the public eye all her life prior to her transition as a transgender woman. Jenner, a former Olympic champion, lived in the spotlight for as long as she can remember. Jenner who is one of the most prominent trans celebs is also is known for being a part of a very famous TV family “The Kardashians”.
She later revealed her life-long identity struggles. Jenner was also quite open about the struggles all the trans people face especially the lack of support from her family. The transgender rights activist was not shy about revealing the fact that her now ex-wife Kris was not happy when Jenner expressed the desire to live as her authentic self.
In 2015, Jenner announced just one identity as Caitlyn by gracing the cover of Vanity Fair shot by celebrity photographer Annie Liebowitz.
Chaz Bono is one of the most famous transgender people in the world. The child of a famous duo Sonny & Cher, they frequently appeared on their television show as a kid. Cher often spoke about Chaz’s transition, saying that “it was not easy”.
Despite their mother’s worldwide fame, Chaz is a celebrity in their own right. One of the first openly transgender male writers, musicians, and producers. In 2011, a documentary called “Becoming Chaz” chronicling their transition aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Chaz Bono also made history by becoming the first ever transgender activist to compete on the U.S. version of “Dancing With the Stars”.
Kim Petras is a German singer-songwriter, actress and director based in Los Angeles. Petras underwent gender reassignment surgery at the age of 16. She moved to the United States to pursue a career in the music industry.
Petras is the youngest person to go through gender affirming surgeries. She is also one of the pop industries prominent trans voices.
When asked about being a trans rights activist and musician, Petras said: “Some people think that if you’re transgender, that’s all you can do and all your messaging should be about. But I write about human emotions, human feelings. And I think everyone can relate to that.”
Jamie Clayton is an American actress best known for her role as a trans hacker Nomi Marks on Netflix's Sense 8. She also starred as Sasha Booker in the third season of a hit TV show Designated Survivor.
Clayton is very vocal about LGBTQ+ rights in the industry. She often criticizes casting decisions when it comes to cisgender actors portraying trans individuals.
In response to Scarlett Johansson being cast to play a trans man: "Actors who are trans never even get to audition for anything other than roles of trans characters. We can't even get in the room. Cast actors who are trans as non-trans characters. I dare you."
Janet Mock is known for being a lifelong trans advocate. She is a famous author and activist who is the first transgender person of color to write and direct a television series.
That groundbreaking series is "Pose" written with transgender actors in mind is one of the biggest hits on television. The show revolves around the lives of trans folks. Mock frequently said that it is by far one of the highlights of her career.
The bestselling author revealed in an interview with The Guardian that she never had role models growing up as a young woman. This is exactly why she wants to give a space of voice for transgender women, especially transgender women of color in the media.
Lana and Lilly Wachowski are first openly transgender twin TV and film writers, directors and producers. The two are best known for their iconic “Matrix” series as well as “Cloud Atlas’. Lana and Lilly are both trans women who came out in 2010.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in June 2020, Lilly shared her thoughts on how their films were inspired by the oppression and rage prior to transitioning.
The duo is known for raising the subject of LGBTQ+ rights in Hollywood. They are among the transgender celebs also known for their joint work, but the new Matrix 4 will be solely Lana’s work.
Lilly Wachowski chose to step aside and move forward from the Matrix franchise. She shared her thoughts on it during a virtual panel for her Showtime series “Work in Progress”.
Michaela Antonia Jaé Rodriguez is a trans actress, the star of the hit series “Pose” we’ve mentioned in this article before, the first trans woman to be nominated for an Emmy. Rodriguez is famous for being the first transgender actress to be nominated in a leading actress role at the 2021 Emmy Awards.
Rodriguez recently opened up to PEOPLE magazine about her historical nomination playing a trans character. She shared that she feels humbled and grateful to be recognized among actors, not just transgender celebrities.
MJ Rodriguez often talks about the fact that actors should be treated with respect, but also given roles that are cisgender characters. Rodriguez said that she wants to play characters beyond trans roles. Whether it is the first trans superhero or a cisgender assistant secretary at the New York Supreme Court, Rodriguez wants to tackle roles that go beyond her sexual orientation or gender identity.
This stand-up comedian is not only a veteran in comedy, he is also very outspoken about his trans identity. Harvie started his career nearly twenty years ago often talking about where the trans person's journey ends.
He was under the wing of a famous New York City comic, and outspoken LGBTQ+ activist Margaret Cho. She is the one that made him an off-Broadway star of her comedy revue.
Harvie moved on to become one of the most-known trans celebrities with a successful television and film career . He starred in a one-man show “Parts Sold Separately”. One of his most known roles is in the series “Transparent”.
Jenna Talackova is known for being a runway and print model. This Canadian beauty is also one of the most prominent trans voices in the world. In 2012 she made history by securing an entry in the Miss Universe Canada pageant.
Talackova faced public scrutiny after being outed by someone who recognized her from a beauty pageant for transgender women. The world was quite different back then, but Talackova did not give up. She is now recognized as the first transgender woman to take part in a beauty pageant for cisgender women.
At first transgender model fought against her disqualification quite publicly, then she contracted a famous Hollywood lawyer and took up the case against the pageant.
They ultimately reversed their decision on transgender contestants under public pressure and allowed Talackova to compete. Jenna only made it to the top 12.
Idya Moore is one of the best known openly transgender people on TV. The “Pose” superstar is not only known for their trans character, but also for their trans activism.
In 2019, Moore revealed that paying for female hormone replacement therapy did not come cheap. Indya Moore disclosed that they were a victim of sex trafficking in her teenage years.
Indya Moore is also first ever trans female on the cover of ELLE magazine. “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.”, she said in her interview with ELLE's Jada Yuan.
Candis Cayne is a Hollywood heavyweight. She is known for playing opposite William Baldwin in “Dirty Sexy Money” which aired on ABC.
Cayne is the first transgender woman to play a transgender character on mainstream network television. A fun fact about the trans actress, Candis Cayne is also great friends with Caitlyn Jenner.
Brian Michael Smith is famous for his incredible performances. The actor that used his role on a critically acclaimed series “Queen Sugar” as a transgender police officer uses his fame for trans advocacy and representation in the media.
His film credits include “Law and Order” and “Girls”, Brian Michael Smith is now becoming a familiar face on television and film.
In 2017 the actor revealed in an interview for NBC News’ contributor Tiq Milan that it is important for him to be visible in his work.
Dutch Youtube personality with her own global cosmetics brand. Nikkie de Jager is better known as NikkieTutorials. She gained popularity in 2015 after her video “The Power of Makeup”. Currently Nikkie’s channel has millions of views, and her clients include celebrities from all walks of life.
At the beginning of 2020 Nikkie posted a video called “I am Coming Out”. She revealed that she was assigned male at birth, but went through a transition fairly early on. She also said that her decision to finally come out was brought upon someone trying to blackmail her.
Nikkie recently hosted Eurovision Song Contest and wore outfits that had transgender flag colors to showoff her support for the trans people.
Alexis Arquette is one of the most known activists in Hollywood. A part of the famous Arquette acting family, she was a fearless advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.
Alexis was known for playing a trans sex worker in “Last Exit to Brooklyn”. Some may remember her as a Boy George impersonator in “The Wedding Singer”.
Arquette died of a heart-attack after living with HIV for nearly 29 years. She passed away in 2016, but her memory lives on. Notably, her sister Patricia frequently talks about Alexis in her acceptance speeches and urges to end the persecution of trans individuals, not only in public, but also in jokes at home.
The Tobagonian-American transgender model, actress, author and reality tv personality is well known for her role as Elektra Abundance on the TV series Pose. She recently played the role of Mx. on American Gods. Dominique Jackson was also featured in Vogue Espana.
Dominique Jackson says she could have never imagined being a grand marshal at the NYC Pride March or having a major platform to speak about trans and LGBTQ+ issues.
Her international fame comes with a price though, Jackson says people sometimes fail to separate her roles from real life.
In her interview with Marie Claire Jackson opened up about the ups and downs of being a trans rights advocate.
Leyna Bloom is the first openly transgender model to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
The transgender model posted her cover photographed by Yu Tsai on Instagram captioning the post with “This moment heals a lot of pain in the world. We deserve this moment; we have waited millions of years to show up as survivors and be seen as full humans filled with wonder."
The actress is also the first ever Black and Asian-American transgender person to appear in the issue.
This will not be a first for Leyna Bloom. In 2017, the Black and Filipina actress became the first trans woman of color to be featured in Vogue India. In 2019, she became the first trans person to play a role in a film that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Los Angeles native, Alex Blue Davis played an intern on a long-standing hit TV series “Grey’s Anatomy”. In one of the episodes the character was revealed to be a transgender man.
Despite popular belief, Alex was not new to TV when he was cast for “Grey’s Anatomy” He appeared on shows like NCIS, Two Broke Girls, and more.
Alex Blue Davis is also an indie rock musician who was even named one of the top-up-and-coming solo artists.
Leandra Madeiros Cerezo is a fashion-industry superstar. Lea T is one of transgender community icons in the world of fashion. She was one of Givenchy senior designer Ricardo Tisci’s muses. In fact, the letter T is a tribute to the designer.
The Brazilian-born beauty lead campaigns for Burberry and Redken. She was even the first trans celebrities to take part in the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Lea T rode a bike in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro, in her native Brazil.
Westling is a fashion model known for work with major names like Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Chanel and more. Westling is a staple at the New York fashion week
In an interview with CNN Style he revealed that he began taking testosterone and planned to get top surgery and return to fashion in the future. This means Westling is joining a great list other trans models. Until recently, many of them hid their identities, but now we know of Valentina Smapaio, Andreja Pejic, Leyna Bloom, Lea T, and many more. The list of trans male modes is much shorter, so Westling is definitely changing that.
In 2018 , IMG models men's board signed Chella Man to their roaster. Westling is building on that legacy and changing the modelling world without too much trouble. The agencies that represent Westling updated the photo and name on their sites to reflect Nathan's gender identity.
These are just some of the talented and inspiring transgender individuals making a change.
Hollywood is certainly shifting, Netflix has more trans actors in shows like “The Good Girls”, “The Politician”, “Elite”, but there is still room to grow and improve policies on diversity and inclusion.
If you are looking for a transgender chat and support feel free to visit Taimi for more information. Change is not easy, but we can also be the catalyst for it. Researching about LBGTQ+ actors, reading books talking about transgender experience, bringing trans issues to the forefront will certainly improve the portrayal of trans people in the mass media, popular culture and beyond.