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10 Influential Trans Women You Should Know About

March is national women’s history month and as a result, many people have begun talking about and celebrating the amazing women who have achieved so much in human history. But what about the women no one talks about? Transgender women are women like any other, and yet, they are seemingly only ever reported on when talking about negative things such as rates of hate crimes against them or accounts from bigots speaking out against their rights. But, trans women should be in the news for being influential and historically notable. Here’s a list, in no particular order, of some astounding trans women and their accomplishments:

Caitlyn Jenner

 In April of 2015, Caitlyn Jenner publically came out as a transgender woman to the United States press. For many Americans, this was the first time a person that they knew of, in this case, from the ever-popular reality television series “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”, had come out as trans. Furthermore, for some Americans, this is the first they had heard at all about transgender people. Her coming out was praised by many as extraordinarily brave and opened the door for transgender people to start being respected and understood by the general populace.

Laverne Cox

A trans woman of color, Laverne Cox is an outspoken actress and LGBTQ+ advocate. She is best known for her roles in shows such as Orange Is the New Black.  In 2014, Cox became the first transgender woman to be featured on the cover of TIME magazine, as well as Cosmopolitan. She’s won many accolades for her advocacy, including a special GLAAD award.

Jazz Jennings

One of the youngest transgender activists, Jazz Jennings is 20 years old and has already accomplished a lot. She has had her own reality television show, children’s book and YouTube channel. She also owns a charity that sells fake wearable mermaid tails that donates all profits to a fund for transgender youth. Her most recent success? Acceptance to Harvard University.

Josie Totah

Josie, for many years, was best known by many for her occasional roles in shows like Jessie and Glee. Now, she’s more recognizable as one of the stars of Moxie, an Amy Pohler film about feminism. She lends herself and her experience to the character she plays, introducing intersectional feminism into the film. She came out as trans very recently in 2018.

Mary Jones

Acceptance of transgender individuals is unfortunately very new to a lot of western societies.That being said, many transgender people did exist before mainstream acceptance, despite popular belief on the contrary. Mary Jones was considered a criminal in her time but is praised by modern historians. As the first recorded trans woman of New York, she helped bring the trans experience to the limelight. She was able to share and describe her experiences as a black trans woman 100s of years before it became accepted. Historians today think of her as a tragic but brave figure, who was hurt deeply by the oppressive system in which she lived. Brooklyn Museum commissioned and presented a short film about her life for a limited period of time.

Miss Major

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a much loved LGBTQ+ advocate. She came out as a trans woman in the late 1950s after decades of identifying as a drag queen. Gender identity was still a new subject for many and wasn’t talked about as often as it is now, even in the LGBT community. Transitioning wasn’t really something people did or knew about. Still, she came to realize that what she was experiencing was gender dysphoria. She had to buy her hormones off of the black market due to a lack of medical support for trans people at that time. Her hardships lead to her serving as the original executive director for the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project. The project involved helping trans gender individuals within the prison industrial complex.

Hunter Shafer

An actress and model, Hunter Shafer is best known for her role as Jules on HBO’s Euphoria. As many other LGBTQ+ celebrities do, she has also done a lot of advocacy.  For her advocacy, she made the 21 under 21 list for Teen Vogue in 2017.

Marsha P. Johnson

The Stonewall Riots are considered by many historians to be the beginning of the pride movement. For those who may not know, the Stonewall riots were a series of demonstrations triggered by a police raid that occurred at the Stonewall Inn, a well known LGBTQ+ meeting place of the time. The raid occured in 1969, as did the protests. Marsha is one of the most famous people to be present and active in the riots. At the time, she was thought of as a drag queen due to much less of a public consciousness for gender identity.  She, like many others involved in the drag community of the time, later realized she was actually a trans woman. She dedicated her life to supporting other trans people and gay youth.

Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia’s story is much like Marsha’s. The two women were close friends when the Stonewall riots began. Her life as a drag queen turned trans woman caused her to face many hardships but it also inspired her to help others. She and Marsha are not in American history books even though their achievements should warrant it. They are still being recognized though as historical figures through a New York statue as well as a documentary.

Alexis Young

Before current Americans had ever known what a transgender person was, the native Americans had a similar role called the Two-Spirit. Many Native American tribes had and still have two-spirit individuals. Alexus Young is one of these individuals. Young is an independent filmmaker known for her experimental style. One of her most notable films is “Feeling Reserved” a unique documentary told with animation about Canadian police brutality against First Nations peoples. She is a known advocate for LGBTQ rights as well as for the rights of First Nations peoples.

Hey! I'm Skyler. I like writing, politics as well as cooking, and I am so excited to begin working with HerCampus.
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