As the world continues to learn about the complexities of human identity and learns to embrace them, it is important to highlight the normalcy that regardless of their minority status, people with non-regular identities are just people too. One of these identities is the transgender and gay community who have been leading the fight in the world’s understanding and tolerance of the LGTBTQ community. In showing the possibility that transgenders can lead fulfilling lives, some of them have gone on to become famous personalities in the world. There are fewer ways to achieve this normalcy than to promote those who have found a way to lead a fulfilling life regardless of their identity. In this list, we take a look at ten famous transgender people who we barely recognize, as a result of the normalization they have achieved with their various positions.
1. Carmen Carrera – Famous Transgender People
Very few people looking at Carmen Carrera would see a woman who used to be a man. Carman Carrera, who is famous for a number of things, including appearing on the popular show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, has been a member of the entertainment industry since 2011, identifying at the time as a gay man. She, however, began transitioning to becoming a woman after she concluded her appearance on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She is an actress, a showgirl, and model who is signed onto Wilhelmina Models. She is an advocate for AIDS awareness and has been a part of several events and organizations in the promotion of gender equality and LGBTQ acceptance.
2. Janet Mock
In the transgender community, there are few names that are as well known and respected than that of Janet Mock. The Hawaii native began her transition from a male to a female in high school, using her earnings from a short career as a sex worker. By the time she was 18, she underwent surgery and completed her transition to a female. She was a staff editor at People’s magazine and for a long time, from college through to the beginnings of work life, her identity as a transgender woman was unknown until she came out in 2011.
Since then, she has been using her platform to promote tolerance, racial representation, and LGBT rights. As a woman who studied journalism, she has written several articles on the subject and she has also published a best-selling book, Redefining Realness. She may have been born and proclaimed a man, but she is one of the most beautiful women in the media industry today, earning her place on our list famous transgender people you’d barely recognize.
3. Laverne Cox – Famous Transgender People
The only reason Laverne Cox is recognizable as a transgender is because she proudly identifies with the identity. She is one of the openly transgender people in Hollywood, going on to become the first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award as an actress. It is one of the few ways Laverne has gone on to promote the acceptance of transgender people in Hollywood and the world at large. Laverne got her Emmy nomination from starring in the Netflix show, Orange is the New Black, and if she didn’t wear her transgender badge so proudly, her beauty and elegance would make it very difficult to think she used to be a man. This easily makes her one of the many famous transgender people you should know about.
4. Jenna Talackova
If there is one thing that truly proves how unrecognizable transgender can be, it is a look at Jenna Talackova. The Canadian model began transitioning at the age of 14 and completed it with a sex reassignment surgery at the age of 19. Some offer themselves to activism while some were called to it. Jenna was called to it when she fought a legal battle that allowed her to compete in Miss Universe Canada in 2012.
The competition had sought to disqualify her on the grounds she was a transgender but she won the battle, and competed in the competition, making it into the top 12 and winning Miss Congeniality. Unsurprisingly, Jenna Talackova is a model, because after all, she is beautiful. She is now a recognizable name and a famous transgender person around the world.
5. Chaz Bono
So far in this list, there have been many women who used to be men. Chaz Bono is a worthy pause on that train. Chaz is the son of Bono and Cher. Back when being gay was considered scandalous information, Chaz was outed by a tabloid as a lesbian back when he was still a woman. Chaz, at the time, admitted and came out to the public. Although he was born in 1969 and came out to his parents at the age of 18, he did not transition to a male until he was 41 years old. He is a writer, a musician and an actor, with several creative projects like Bar Girls, Where the Bears Are and Dirty. His solitary album with the band –Ceremony, Hang Out Your Poetry, was released in 1993. He is also a notable LGBTQ activist.
6. Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski
Formerly Laurence and Andrew Paul Wachowski, the famous Wachowski brothers who produced iconic films like V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas, The Matrix franchise and Sense8, transitioned completely in 2008 but only made their first public appearance in 2012. As expected, their nickname ‘The Wachowski brothers’ evolved to become ‘The Wachowski sisters’. The duo has remained part of the fabric of excellence that runs through Hollywood.
The sisters’ general reluctance at public appearances has made them some of the least recognizable public personalities on the planet. Lana and Lilly, however,can be seen looking beautiful at the pride parade in Brazil after coming out for a recent string of public appearances in celebration of their ensemble show – Sense8.
7. Chelsea Manning – Famous Transgender People
Perhaps a rather twisted way of proving just how regular transgenders can be as people would be to take a look at Chelsea Manning, who is an American activist and a notable whistleblower who released public documents about the US military and diplomatic communications. She was convicted and sent to jail for seven years. Chelsea, who was born Bradley Edward Manning came out as a transgender in 2013. Today, she is both a symbol for the transgender community as she is a symbol against government secrets. She also contested for the United States Senate under the Democratic Party. Today, we barely recognize or acknowledge the fact she used to be a man.
8. Ian Harvie – Famous Transgender People
Another female to male transgender on our list of 10 famous transgender people, Ian Harvie, who like a majority of transgender people, developed gender dysphoria as a child. He came out as a transgender man at the age of thirty-two after he came out as a gay man at the age of nineteen. The Portland-born comedian has featured in several films and television shows, including the popular transgender, themed show, Transparent.
His comedy career has seen him perform alongside comedy legend, Margaret Cho. He has also gone on several tours alongside her and on his own in service of his comedy show, The Ian Harvie Show. As a transgender man, he regularly lends his voice to the LGBTQ fight, especially in Hollywood, notably joining other famous transgender actors and actresses in a letter penned to Hollywood by Jen Richards.
9. Leandra Medeiros Cerezo
She is popularly known as Lea T, and mostly as a model for one of America’s biggest cosmetic brands, Redken, and it is doesn’t seem like an overly impressive accomplishment until you learn she is the first transgender to be the face of an American company with global reach. The Brazilian born model who was born male transitioned in 2012 and if she wasn’t so proud of her transgender identity, would be unrecognizable as a former man.
As a model, she has been featured in several magazines and shoots for different brands, including Vogue Paris, Love, Elle, Marie Claire, Glamour and in 2015 was described by Forbes as having changed the face of Italian fashion, comparing her influence to that of legendary names in the industry like Miuccia Prada and Franca Sozzani.
While she is not an outright activist, it is in her professional achievements and accomplishments that she pushes the normalization and acceptance of transgender people. She was also the first openly, famous transgender person to participate in the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony. She led out the Brazilian Olympics team in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
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10. Raffi Freedman-Gurspan – Famous Transgender People
We have mentioned famous transgender people in the media, entertainment, military, and now one of the notable and famous transgender people in politics, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan. Having been advocating for transgender rights since college, she earned her popularity by becoming the first transgender person to work in the White House. She earned the position during President Obama’s administration.
She has served in various capacities at the highest level of governance, serving as an LGBT liaison from 2015 to 2017 and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. The Honduras-born activist became an American after she was adopted by an American Jewish couple. Among her firsts is helping the Massachusetts State House pass the transgender civil rights bill in November 2011. She was also a policy advisor for the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Hopefully, one day, the works of Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, and other transgender activists, using their profession to create a peaceful and safe society would produce a world where transgenders and all other minority groups can live in peaceful harmony with the rest of the world.