Transgender people are at the forefront of the gay rights movement. They serve as the most ardent activists for the rights of queer people worldwide. Transgender people have demonstrated their abilities and passions in a variety of fields and industries over the last few decades.
They have broken down barriers by excelling at what they do, thereby advancing social norms and attitudes toward queerness. And, by leveraging their celebrity and social standing, these trans celebrities have served as role models for young queer people all over the world.
To that end, Stacker compiled a list of 25 influential transgender celebrities, detailing not only their individual backgrounds and bodies of work but also any famous firsts they achieved through their work and activism, if applicable. This list contains no politicians.
Actors, musicians, models, athletes, artists, and influencers are among these individuals. They are notable not only for being transgender people in their fields. But also for contributing to and advancing their fields as a whole. Whether they have been out their entire lives or have only recently come out. They have served as role models for many.
These figures have emerged in the mainstream despite the hardships and obstacles they faced from their peers and society, paving the way for more queer and trans people to follow. Continue reading to see which celebrities you recognize and whose work you have followed.
Andreja Peji, who is from Bosnia and Herzegovina, has modeled for both women’s and men’s clothing. Peji has appeared on the covers of Elle, Marie Claire, and GQ, and in 2015. She was the first transgender model profiled by Vogue. Peji has appeared as a guest judge on “Britain’s Next Top Model” and acted in 2018’s “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” in addition to becoming one of the most prolific transgender models in the world.
Asia Kate Dillon
Asia Kate Dillon, who plays Taylor Mason in “Billions,” is the first nonbinary performer to play a major role in an American television show. They have received several Critics’ Choice Television Awards nominations and co-starred in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum.” Their presence in film and television has helped viewers learn about the nonbinary experience and the use of singular they/them pronouns. This lead to award shows like the MTV Video Music Awards making some of their categories gender-neutral and inclusive.
Billy Tipton was one of the most accomplished jazz musicians of the twentieth century for several decades. Tipton toured the country and released several successful albums as a bandleader and pianist. Tipton, who was born female, changed his gender presentation in the early 1930s to fit the “jazz band image” of the time; his status as a trans man was unknown until after his death, and even his closest friends and family were surprised.
Caitlyn Jenner, a long-retired gold medalist decathlete, had one of the most prolific celebrity coming-out moments of the modern era. Jenner’s transition sparked widespread coverage and debate about the transgender experience. She also received honors such as the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards for sharing her own.
Candis Cayne began her successful acting career as a drag queen in the early 1990s. She then began to appear in films and television shows, including some of RuPaul’s Drag Race projects. By 2007, Cayne had landed a recurring role as a transgender character on the television show “Dirty Sexy Money,” making her the first transgender actress to do so.
After the 1981 James Bond film “For Your Eyes Only,” in which model Caroline Cossey appeared as an extra, British tabloids revealed Cossey to be a transgender woman. Despite the incident, Cossey continued her modeling career and fought for trans rights in the United Kingdom, taking her case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Chaz Bono has received media attention since he was a child, as the son of Sonny Bono and Cher. Tabloids outed him as a lesbian prior to his transition. His transition to a male began in earnest in the late 2000s. Chaz has since become a well-known LGBTQ+ activist and advocate. He went on to tell his story in a documentary film in 2011 and later competed in “Dancing with the Stars,” both of which helped to spark discussion about transgender people.
Due to the gender-segregated nature of many events, transgender athletes have always faced difficult battles within their fields. However triathlete Chris Mosier has instigated change in sports. Mosier was able to compete in the Duathlon Age Group World Championship Race and many other events after challenging the International Olympic Committee policy.
Mosier was the first transgender man to compete in Olympic trials alongside other men. He was also the first transgender athlete to appear in ESPN Magazine’s “Body Issue.”
Christine Jorgensen was the first known person to undergo sex reassignment surgery in the 1950s. She started identifying as a woman some years after her service in WWII. Jorgensen was profiled in the news for her wit and cadence. She became an advocate for transgender people while also working as an actress and performer. Jorgensen, as a transgender advocate, has remained a powerful figure even decades after her death.
Fallon Fox, a now-retired MMA fighter, struggled with her gender identity for most of her childhood and eventually underwent gender reassignment surgery. Fox came out as Transgender after becoming an MMA fighter in the women’s division, sparking controversy and debate about whether or not she would be allowed to compete against other women. While her career is over, outlets such as Outsports have dubbed Fox the “bravest athlete in history.”