Over the past few decades, the world has slowly been blossoming into rainbow colors. The LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) movement has been waving their flag high and proud ever since that first stone in Stonewall was thrown. And while there are still a lot of obstacles to overcome, there has also has been major progress when it comes to the LGBT movement. More and more, many lesbian, gay, bi, and trans individuals are coming out. They are being accepted and embraced and celebrated more and more throughout the world.
So who wouldn’t want to learn some more about the amazing LGBT celebrity figures we all look up to? Especially the many fabulous, beautiful, and strong transgender celebrities. With the steadily rising popularity of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and the increasing number of transgender women in the modelling scene and transgender actors and directors coming out, it is the perfect time to recognize and uplift even more the transgender celebrities we know we all love and idolize! You may see some familiar names and faces on this list – and even learn a bit about those you did not know about before. Here are the 15 transgender celebs we all absolutely adore!
15. Jazz Jennings
Jazz Jennings may be one of the youngest (if not the youngest) people on this list. But don’t let her age fool you, she has already begun taking the world by storm. At just 18 years old, Jazz has already shown the world what a force to be reckoned with she is. A Youtuber, spokesmodel, and LGBTQ activist, Jazz is showing both the younger and older generations that transgender people are fierce, brave, and inspiring.
Jazz was diagnosed with gender identity disorder in 2004, when she was just about four years old. This makes her one of the youngest people documented to be identified as transgender. She has since co-authored her book I Am Jazz as well as starred in a reality show of the same name. She also co-found TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation in 2007 to help transgender youth.
14. Carmen Carrera
If you love RuPaul’s Drag Race, then you have to know who Carmen Carrera is! One of the earliest contestants on the show, Carmen Carrera appeared on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She also appeared on the show’s spinoff series RuPaul’s Drag U. We just can’t get enough of her!
Carmen is not only a reality star, she is also a model, actress, and burlesque performer. She’s appeared on shows like Jane the Virgin and Primetime: What Would You Do? She’s also appeared in David LaChapelle’s work and has been included in The Advocate’s “40 Under 40” annual list in 2014. She also is an activist, particularly for AIDS awareness. She has been very vocal about transgender rights, especially during her time on RuPaul’s Drag Race, as well as on a notable episode of Cake Boss.
13. Caitlyn Jenner
It seems like the Kardashians and Jenners are taking over the world! And Caitlyn is a part of that powerhouse of amazing celebrity and businesswomen! Formerly known as Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn is a former athlete and television personality. Besides being on the reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, she starred in I Am Cait, a GLAAD Media Award-winning reality series.
In her younger years, Caitlyn participated in the Olympic men’s decathlon in 1974, winning the gold medal. Jenner also won gold in the Pan American Games in 1975, as well as the French national championship, while on tour. Now, Cait is busy not only with the media but also with politics and business, collaborating with MAC for a lipstick line. She is also vocal about her identity and political views.
12. Lana Wachowski
If Wachowski is a familiar name to you, then good, because it better be! Lana Wachowski is one half of a powerhouse duo of directors/screenwriters/producers. The Wachowskis (formerly known as the Wachowski brothers)! They brought us cultural icons like Neo of The Matrix trilogy and the sensates from Netflix hit Sense8.
Though rumors about her transition started circulating in the early 2000s, Lana publicly appeared for the first time after her transition only in 2012, though she completed her transition in 2008. She is apparently the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender! How inspiring is that for other filmmakers? So inspiring! Plus she and her sister make heartfelt, inquisitive, and entertaining films! Lana also received the Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award in 2012.
11. Lilly Wachowski
Lilly is the other half of the amazingly talented Wachowski siblings. She came out as transgender about four years after her sister Lana did. Though, she did say that a journalist from the Daily Mail forced her hand to do so. But of course, Lilly was able to shape her own story and show the world who she is on her own terms!
She posted a self portrait along with a candid statement in Chicago’s Windy City Times. She mentioned the unending support of her family, friends, and wife Alisa Blasingame – the couple married in 1991. She also talked about the struggles that many LGBT and transgender people face. Specifically, the injustices and crimes (like homicide) happening to many transgender individuals particularly those of color.
10. Amanda Lepore
Just looking at Amanda Lepore tells us that she is such a fabulous individual! Those red lips, hourglass figure, and blond locks exude nothing but elegance and style. She is a model, celebutante, and performance artist. But her life did not start out glamorous. She was withdrawn from public school and isolated from peers. But Amanda did not give up! She started making clothes in exchange for access to the hormones she needed. She knew early on she was a girl.
Amanda began transitioning at the age of seventeen. When she relocated to New York in the early 1990’s, she made a name for herself by being in the Club Kids. She is also photographer David LaChapelle’s muse. She has appeared in numerous music videos for many popular artists.
9. Ian Harvie
Ian Harvie is really an inspiration to many out there, even more so because he knows how to have fun and crack a great joke! In fact, Ian Harvie is a stand-up comedian, often on tour not only locally but also globally. He toured with Margaret Cho in 2009. His solo career launched in November of the same year.
He is perhaps best known for having been on the television show Transparent, a series that tells the story of a family that discovers their father is transgender. Ian also incorporates his transgender identity into his comedy, bringing more awareness to the LGBT movement. He’s vocal about the struggles of transgender individuals and about issues like abortion rights not only in his routines, but in interviews too.
8. Candis Cayne
The transgender community is still horribly underrepresented in the media. While some strides have been made, Hollywood still has a long way to go when it comes to equal representation. This is just one reason why it is so exciting to see an openly transgender person or character on television. Many people think of Laverne Cox as the first, but before her there was Candis Cayne of Dirty, Sexy, Money.
She appeared on the ABC prime time drama as a recurring character beginning in 2007, making her the first transgender actress to be cast in a recurring role. Her role was that of a transwoman (a mistress, at that) in the drama. Before appearing on television, however, she did choreography and drag. She also won the Miss Continental Contest in 2001. She went on to even bigger and bolder projects from there! She’s since appeared on Nip/Tuck and RuPaul’s Drag U!
7. Alexis Arquette
If the Arquette name is familiar it is because the Arquette family is an acting dynasty. Alexis Arquette’s brothers and sisters David, Rosanna, Patricia, and Richmond are all involved with either acting, directing, screenwriting, or television producing. Alexis is no different! She was an actress, sure, but she was also a cartoonist, cabaret performer, and an activist!
Alexis has been in numerous notable works including Pulp Fiction, Bride of Chucky, as well as Friends! Alexis was a very vocal of supporter of the transgender community. Though it was only recently revealed, after Arquette’s death, that she had begun living as a man again. Alexis Arquette died just over a year ago due to complications stemming from HIV. One of the most inspiring transgender figures to have graced Hollywood, Arquette’s name will live on.
6. Jamie Clayton
Jamie Clayton is one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood – just look at her! With those piercing blue eyes, porcelain skin, and gorgeous blond locks she turns heads everywhere she goes. No wonder she is a model! She is also an actress, having worked on numerous projects like TRANSform Me, a makeover show created and produced by Laverne Cox, and the HBO show Hung. Of course, Jamie is probably best known as Nomi Marks on Sense8.
Since then, she has started to move on to the big screen. So far she has starred in Neon Demon (2016) and The Snowman (2017). A truly talented actress, we’re sure Jamie will only reach further heights. She has stated in interviews that she was attracted to Sense8 for the opportunity to portray a transgender character created by a transgender filmmaker.
5. Lea T
Lea T is starting to take the fashion industry by storm! Beginning in 2010, Lea’s name started to show up everywhere in the world of fashion. She is certainly making a name for herself in the modelling and fashion world. In that same year she was made the face of Givenchy, shortly after being discovered by its senior designer, Riccardo Tisci.
She has also walked the runway, most notably the Sao Paulo Fashion Week in 2011. She has been featured in numerous magazines including Vogue Paris and Interview Magazine. She’s also known as the first openly transgender person to participate in the opening of the Olympics! Want more of Lea T? Just search Redken and she’ll appear; she’s their brand ambassador! Lea T is truly an inspiring transgender celebrity, showing transgender youth that they can make it in the fashion industry.
4. Isis King
Speaking of fashion, we can’t make a list of inspiring transgender celebrities who we all absolutely love without including Isis King! She is the first ever transgender contestant on much loved modelling series America’s Next Top Model. She appeared on its 11th cycle. And, while King didn’t win that cycle, that was not the last we saw of her.
She re-appeared on the 17th cycle of ANTM All Stars, and since then as brought widespread attention to the transgender community. She isn’t only riveting in front of the cameras. She’s also captivating on the runway and in print. King is the first transgender model to work with American Apparel! Her appearance on America’s Next Top Model has created a lasting cultural impact, as people were able to witness interactions and conversations regarding the transgender community. Amazing!
3. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox may just be THE face of the transgender movement today. She is fabulous, she is beautiful, and she is incredibly influential too. In fact, she is taking Hollywood by storm one step at a time. She is the first transgender woman to be on the cover of Cosmopolitan! How amazing is that achievement? But her achievements don’t stop there.
She’s been starring in many films and shows since 2000. She skyrocketed to fame with her role on Orange is the New Black, a hit Netflix show. This role earned her an Emmy nomination, as well as the distinction of being the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy. She also has other awards for her participation in the LGBT movement. Truly, Laverne is a gal we all love and look up to! She is simply an inspiration.
2. Chaz Bono
Aside from Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono may just be the most visible face of the LGBT movement. His coming out was met with awe and more than a little bit of shock. He was previously known as Chastity Bono, the then-daughter (now son) of entertainers Sonny and Cher. Chaz came out in 1995 as a lesbian, and his transition and fight for the LGBT movement catapulted from there.
Chaz’s transition from female to male began sometime around the year 2000. And this decision naturally led to further activism. Chaz began to work as an activist for the LGBT movement, as well as a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign. He also worked as a writer for The Advocate, a gay and lesbian magazine. Truly amazing and dedicated work from Chaz!
1. Caroline Cossey
Caroline Cossey has such an amazing story. A story that is both inspiring and, at the same time, harrowing because she went through so much. But despite everything, Caroline powered through like the brilliant and strong woman that she is! Cossey began her career as a model going by the name Tula. She was the first trans woman to pose in Playboy, back in 1991.
She was also cast in a James Bond film, after which she was outed by a tabloid. The revelation caused her so much distress that she contemplated suicide, yet she carried on and continued her modelling career, eventually writing her own autobiography. Such strength and courage! Though her childhood was an unhappy one – she was constantly bullied for her femininity – she is now happily married and has published two autobiographies.