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!
Princess Joules. She is a beautiful transwoman. Check out her on youtube.
Thank you so much for producing this article. My 16 year old little brother has come out as Transgender and I want the world for him. I never want him to be limited in anyway and hope he can be inspired by these amazing and beautiful women. The hardest thing about it is to just prey that everyone will be accepting and kind. He has already gone through enough pain just wishing he was a girl his whole life.
I have two. Kim Petras and Capri Culpepper.
I bet none of the late transitioners like myself remember Canary Conn. I absolutely adore her.
Her interviews on various t.v talk shows in the late 70’s / early 80’s helped me so much to understand myself in an age when information on the topic was scarce and hard to come by.
Others like Jane County, Candy Darling, Rene Richards were pretty cool too.
Stef Sanjati for sure.
I truly love your site and my pick would be Marci Bowers for all the work she does to help A girl feel real !!!!
For me, obviously, it’s Christine Jorgensen… She was certainly a pioneer and helped open the door for all of us. I idolized her and wanted to be just like her. Today I’m living my dream my mom probably always wanted for me as she always told me I was supposed to be her Catherine.
She introduced me to Christine by way of books and articles which pointed the way for my femininity and transition.