Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox might be two of the world’s most famous transgender women. But the truth this, there are MANY amazing transgender “sheros” to look up to.
These trailblazers are shattering stereotypes and breaking boundaries. It’s a beautiful thing!
That’s why in this post, I’ve rounded up 20 transgender role models and celebrities worth knowing about. Read on to be inspired!
1. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox rose to fame on the hit TV series, Orange is the New Black, and has gone on to become one of the most visible trans superstars and activists. She’s the first transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy Award and the first transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine.
2. Mj Rodriguez
Mj Rodriguez is a transgender actress and singer who made history as the first trans woman to receive an Emmy nomination in a major acting category. She was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in 2021 for her role in the TV series, Pose. In January 2022, she went on to become the first transgender actor in history to win a Golden Globe.
3. Lili Elbe
Lili Elbe is the subject of the book and movie,The Danish Girl. She’s notable for being the first transgender woman to undergo gender reassignment surgery in 1930 in Germany. Her initial surgeries were a success. Sadly however, her last surgery (to transplant a uterus so she might be able to have children), led to her death.
4. Rachel Levine
Rachel Levine is the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the United States Senate before taking office. She was nominated by Joe Biden in February 2021 and currently serves as the assistant secretary for health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
5. Valentina Sampaio
Valentina Sampaio is a Brazilian-born transgender supermodel. In 2019, she made history as the first transgender model to work with Victoria’s Secret. Then, in 2020, became the first transgender model to appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
6. Andreja Pejic
Andreja Pejic is a supermodel who walked the runway for both men’s and women’s fashion shows before transitioning as a woman in 2014. She’s been featured on countless magazine covers and was the first transgender model to be featured in a major beauty campaign as a face of Make Up For Ever.
7. Caroline Cossey
Caroline Cossey (also known by her stage name, Tula) is a British model who appeared in the 1981 James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only. She was later outed as transgender by the British tabloid News of the World. In 1991, she became the first trans woman to pose for Playboy and has gone on to become one of the world’s most well known transgender women.
8. Jazz Jennings
Jazz Jennings is an inspiring role model for transgender youth. She first appeared in a 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters in 2007 called I’m a Girl – Understanding Transgender Children. Since then, she’s been featured as the face of Clean & Clear’s See the Real Me campaign and stars in a TLC reality series called I Am Jazz.
9. Janet Mock
Janet Mock is a transgender writer, director, producer, and activist. She’s the author of the NY Times best-selling book, Redefining Realness. She is also the writer, director and executive producer of Pose, an Emmy Award-nominated TV series about NYC’s drag ball culture scene.
10. Christine Jorgensen
Christine Jorgensen is a former soldier who became a media sensation in the U.S. after undergoing gender reassignment surgery in Denmark in 1952. While her transition was ridiculed at the time, she brought national attention to gender issues. She went on to become a successful entertainer.
11. Candis Cayne
Candis Cayne was the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender role on primetime TV. She starred in ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money from 2007-2009. Prior to her acting career, she performed as a drag queen in the early 1990s. She also made several appearances in Caitlyn Jenner’s reality show, I Am Cait.
12. Jennifer Pritzker
Jennifer Pritzker is notable for being the first transgender billionaire. An heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune and a former high ranking lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, she came out as transgender in 2003. She has since donated $2 million for transgender studies to the University of Victoria in British Columbia.
13. Marci Bowers
Marci Bowers is an OB/GYN and surgeon who was the first transgender woman to perform gender reassignment surgery. Her work has been highlighted on Oprah, Discovery Health, and the TLC reality series, I Am Jazz. As of 2020, she has performed over 2,000 vaginoplasties for transgender women.
14. Geena Rocero
Geena Rocero was a successful fashion model for 12 years, appearing in major campaigns for Target, Rimmel, Revlon, Macy’s, and more. She came out as transgender during a TED Talk in 2014. Geena went on to co-found GenderProud, an organization that helps transgender communities around the world advocate for legal rights.
15. Jenna Talackova
Jenna Talackova is a Canadian model who made headlines when she won the right to compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant in 2012. She went on to make it into the Top 12 and was selected Miss Congeniality. Jenna currently works as a model for the prestigious Wilhelmina agency while continuing to champion transgender rights.
16. Leyna Bloom
Leyna Bloom is a transgender model, actress, and activist. She has walked the runway at Paris Fashion Week and appeared in magazines such as Vogue India and Glamour. In July 2021, she made history as the first transgender woman to appear on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
17. Kataluna Enriquez
Kataluna Enriquez is a notable trailblazer who made history as the first openly transgender Miss USA contestant. She was crowned Miss Nevada USA in June 2021 and went on to complete in Miss USA in November 2021.
18. Renée Richards
Renée Richards is a trans woman and former tennis player who competed professionally in the 1970s. In 1976, she challenged a United States Tennis Association decision banning her from competing in the women’s category at the U.S Open. The New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor, marking a victory for transgender athletes.
19. Tracey Norman
Tracey Norman was the first African-American transgender model to break into the fashion world. She was discovered by fashion photographer Irving Penn in 1975. She was then featured on a Clairol hair color box before being “outed” in 1980. She moved to Europe to continue her modeling career and appeared on covers including Vogue Italia and Harper’s Bazaar India.
20. Nikkie de Jager
Nikkie de Jager is a Dutch makeup artist and popular YouTube personality with over one billion views. She completed her transition as a teen, but didn’t come out publicly as transgender until 2020. She has collaborated with beauty brands including OFRA, Maybelline and Lady Gaga’s makeup brand, Haus Laboratories.
Who are YOUR favorite transgender role models?
Wow, was it hard to limit this list to just 20 transgender role models! There are so many more incredible transgender people (both male and female) that deserve to be celebrated.
That’s why I’d love to hear from you on this topic. Who else do you think should be included?
Please share your favorite transgender role models and celebrities in the comments below!
Caroline Cossey was always my inspiration/person I aspired to xx Her book made me realise I was not alone but unfortunately in Scotland I was viewed as someone who was mentally unstable at the time so took me a long time to become the woman I always knew I was xxx
Yes, these are lovely, lovely women. Yes, they are each a role model for all of us women who are trapped inside a man’s body. However, all of the modern day ones (the ones in colour!) have one thing in common: they had the wealth to be able to make their transition! sadly, I have nowhere near the wealth of supermodels, surgeons or billionaires. I just say ‘thank you’ to Lucille for her practical, down-to-earth tips for guys like me who want to be a convincing woman on a budget! Alison xx
How about we nominate you as a transgender hero?
You are my TG hero because of all you do, day in and day out for all of us.
Leather and Lace Dreams,
Mistress Luna Marie
All these role models are fantastic examples to us all but, they have gone way further that i would ever want to. Nonetheless, the have done so much for women like me – love them all.
I would like to get back to Caitlyn Jenner. Also Chelsea Manning. Both are highly public figures, living in a goldfish bowl. Coming out under those conditions says to me that they must have been truly committed to the process, most likely feeling it’s long overdue. People may put them down for various reasons, but I see them as sisters first and foremost, and deserving of support for those reasons alone. ‘Nuff said.
In the early 70’s I heard about Dr Renee Richards who had reassignment surgery – MtF – though at the time it was called sex change. Here was a respected physician that chose to become a woman and even lobbied mightily and with success to play tennis on the professional women’s circuit. She had moderate success playing mostly doubles. I was astonished that this was a possibility in life, to transition to a woman and even live a normal life. Some 30 years later I began to make plans to transition myself after several life altering circumstances…the death of my wife, surviving colon cancer and the graduation of my daughter from college after raising her by myself from the age of 5. Today I am living as a woman at the age of 67, my lifelong dream and I am supremely happy. I also knew of Marci Bowers’ work in Trinidad, Colorado a short drive down I-25 from Denver. I haven’t had surgery but I consider myself as much of a woman as any in the general population. And Caitlyn has been a great role model also since we both are similar in age and have come out about the same time. Thanks Lucille for bringing these personalities to everyone’s attention.
Ophelia Pastrana. @ophcourse . She is the one mine.
There are and have been many beautyful transgeder women, so it’s not easy to choose one.
FYI. Christine Jorgensen was born in New York by Danish/Swedish parents. She was the first in the world to be treated with hormons, that was done by a veterinary from “Landbo Højskolen” in Copenhagen in cooperation with doctors from “Rigshospitalet” in Copenhagen.