It’s no secret that trans visibility is on the rise. Amazon’s Transparent is an Emmy-winning series that tells a powerful trans story and features trans actors of all ages. For the first time ever, a trans child actor appeared in a major network television series. Trans rights and protections are at the forefront of the national legislative conversation. We’re nowhere near where we need to be but things are undoubtedly improving. Thanks to Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, we’ve had a glimpse of what ultimate acceptance and success looks like. But as wonderful and inspiring as their stories are, there’s more to the trans community than these two celebs. There’s a host of trans talent and activists out there helping to spread awareness. It’s time they get a little taste of the spotlight too.
Jazz Jennings first caught national attention after being interviewed by Barbara Walters in a special for ABC’s 20/20. It was then that America was introduced to her supportive parents. Jazz and her family helped remove the stigma about transgender kids and the community in general. She went on to host a YouTube series (I Am Jazz) and snag a TLC reality series about her life.
Fashion has always served as a safe haven for the LGBTQ community but it wasn’t until Hari Nef came along that trans people could truly feel safe there. Nef became the first-ever trans model to sign on with a global modeling agency. In June 2015, she signed on with IMG Models, home of Gisele Bundchen and Kate Moss.
Andreja Pejić became a fashion darling that went where no man or woman had gone before. She was discovered at the tender age of 17 and walked in both men’s and women’s collections for the likes of Jean-Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs. At the start of her career, she was the glamorous face of androgyny. Now, she’s one of the most successful supermodels of our era.
Known to many as Jenner’s gorgeous bestie on I Am Cait, Candis Cayne had an enviable career long before reality TV stardom came knocking. She was the first trans actress to be cast in a network drama (ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money). She also logged a successful career as a choreographer and performer.
Chris Mosier achieved a lot of firsts this year. This summer, he became the first trans man to compete in the Olympics as part of a U.S. national men’s team. He also became the first trans man to be featured in a Nike campaign.
America’s Next Top Model was known for introducing us to tons of beautiful women. But until 2008, the show had never featured a trans woman. That all changed in 2008 when Isis King stomped the runway during the show’s 11th cycle. Her casting wasn’t her only first. She went on to become the first trans model to work for American Apparel. She’s continued her career as a successful print and runway model.
Buck Angel has become the leading force in the trans sexuality movement. This year, he released the first sex toy designed specifically for trans men. After a successful career as an adult film star, he shifted gears to become a community activist. Through a YouTube series, motivational speeches and an acclaimed documentary, he has pushed trans visibility and sexuality to the forefront.
- Jamie Clayton
Anyone who’s seen Netflix’s hit series Sense8 knows the undeniable star power of Jamie Clayton. She played Nomi, a trans character that was at the center of the show’s storyline. Her role on the show was groundbreaking in terms of visibility. Show creators Lana and Lily Wachowski understood the importance of casting a trans actress to play a trans role. Clayton went on to work in Nicolas Winding Refn’s recent horror film Neon Demon and will return for season two of Sense8.
Ian Harvie is a standup comedian who has toured with Margaret Cho and booked high-profile guest appearances on shows like Transparent, Mistresses and Roadtrip Nation. He’s truly a pioneer in tackling the comedy circuit. We’ve yet to see a major trans star take the comedy world by storm, but it seems Harvie is set to be the first.
Janet Mock is a stronghold in the world of publishing. She found prominence as a People Magazine staff editor. She went on to pen the New York Times bestseller Redefining Realness and appears in the upcoming documentary The Trans List.
From journalism to comedy to fashion, there’s truly no limit to what the trans community can achieve. It’s this type of visibility in every industry that will continue to change the public conversation.