There have been transgender people for all of recorded history. Sadly, some eras and places are less friendly and open to them than others. From Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh of Egypt from 1473 and 1458 B.C., to the Queen herself Ru Paul, who rules the drag vibes today, trans people have always been a part of human history and celebrity. In honor of all their accomplishments, we are proud to present twenty of the most popular transgender celebrities.
20. Caitlin Jenner
Caitlin Jenner is one of the most polarizing transgender celebrities. She’s very much a love her or hate her type for people in and out of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, her very public transitioning process opened many people’s eyes to how stereotypes can hold people back and force them into gender-conforming roles. Once a very different famous face on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Jenner now has almost no contact with her former wife and stepchildren, according to an interview with Grazia.
19. Valentina Sampaio
In August of 2019, Valentina Sampaio changed the way people look at the famously uninclusive Victoria’s Secret. While the brand still has a long way to go where body diversity is concerned, hiring this stunningly beautiful transgender model was undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Last year she became the first openly trans woman to join the ranks of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit models. Despite some early setbacks related to her gender, Sampaio’s future as a model looks bright indeed.
18. Indya Moore
Anyone who lands on Time’s Hundred Most Influential People In The World deserves a place on a celebrity list somewhere. However, only Indya Moore made that list as a transgender and non-binary person. You may recognize them from their role as Angel Evangelista on the FX series “Pose,” but the founder of Beetlefruit Media, Inc. is doing a lot more than playing a single part.
17. Chaz Bono
Writer and musician Chaz Salvador Bono is the son of the famed duo, Sonny and Cher. As a person who was always in the public eye, Chaz had no choice but to make his transition public, and he did so with good grace and humor. In addition to his transition, he has also shared his weight loss journey with millions and served as a source of inspiration to generations of young trans people.
16. Alexis Arquette
Although Alexis Arquette passed away from a heart attack in 2016, we wanted to include her on this list. As one of the famous Arquette siblings, Alexis was often in the spotlight. As a cabaret performer, actress, and underground cartoonist, her talent reached millions. Her long, twenty-nine-year battle with HIV helped publicize the AIDS pandemic, and she is still deeply missed by her family and many fans.
15. Leyna Bloom
In October 2017, actress, dancer, and activist Leyna Bloom became the first openly transgender woman of color to appear in Vogue India, which was a huge step forward. It wasn’t until a year later that the country legalized gay sex and gay marriage still isn’t a freedom enjoyed by the Indian people. Recent legal changes allow gay people in India the right to a ‘dignified private life,’ but that’s not the same as marriage or other fundamental human rights. However, thanks to Leyna and many others who have fought for their community, this year might become the first time a same-sex couple wins the right to marry.
14. Zion Moreno
Zion Moreno has recently made news by being chosen for the 2021 reboot of Gossip Girl. As an openly transgender woman, Zion is outspoken in her advocacy for the LGBTQIA+ community. This twenty-six-year-old Mexican American actress is one of the up-and-coming faces that you may not know well yet. However, we expect to see a lot more of her in the near future.
13. Nicole Maines
Trans people deserve recognition and representation, but some places traditionally lack identifiable, relatable trans people. The realm of superheroes, especially those on film, is one such space. While there are a few trans heroes, they are often mere sidelines or jokes. Not Dreamer. Nicole Maines plays reporter Nia Nal on “Supergirl” and (SPOILER), she eventually becomes a full-fledged trans superhero in her own right. She even has her own Wiki Page that talks about her famous hero heritage and backstory.
12. Alexandra Billings
Alexandra Scott Billings was the second openly transgender woman to have played a transgender character on television. The fifty-nine-year-old activist, teacher, producer, actress, and singer is exceptionally talented. For the last three years, she has become well recognized as the despicable Madame Morrible in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Wicked. Sadly, playing a fantastic role on Broadway isn’t without its downside. Like theater producer Cameron Mackintosh, some people still oppose casting transgender people in so-called ‘classic roles.’ Unfortunately for him, transwomen are women, whether he wants them on stage or not. Billings made news for publicly rebuking him. According to Deadline, she posted, “I am an actor. I am Mame and I am Madame Rose. I am Miss Hannigan, and I am Annie Oakley, and I am Fantine… I am an actor, Mr. Mackintosh, not a gimmick.”
11. Josie Totah
Disney is doing a little better these days but still seriously lacks adequate representation. However, we have to applaud their casting choice in choosing Lebanese-American Josie “J. J.” Totah, who had a recurring role in Jessie. This talented young actress was well received by critics for her part in the 2016 movie Other People. However, since she didn’t come out as trans until 2018, most of her early roles are male presenting characters. Though we haven’t seen much of her yet in female roles, we certainly look forward to many more movies and shows from her in the future.
10. Hunter Schafer
Hunter Schafer uses she/her and non-gendered pronouns but prefers a non-gendered honorific. Mx. (pronounced Mix) Schafer is one of the many young stars who are helping to change the dialogue and educate the public about non-binary people. They are a graduate of the University of NC School of the Arts and work as a model. Schafer’s debut role on screen was the promiscuous Jules on HBO’s Euphoria. Hunter is also an outspoken activist. When North Carolina signed a ridiculously restrictive and dangerous bill in 2017 that was aimed at forcing trans people to use bathrooms that match their birth certificates rather than who they are, Schafer sued the state. We would have given them a spot in the top ten for that action alone.
9. Elliot Fletcher
The charismatic and handsome Elliot Fletcher grew up in LA and is the child of John DeMita and Julia Fletcher, who are both voice actors. Fletcher was a part of the MCU and played Max, a character who was tricked into working for Morgan Le Fay on The Runaways. However, he is better known for his roles in Shameless, Faking It, and The Fosters. The already prolific actor seems to move seamlessly from one part to another. Most recently, he joined the cast of Y: The Last Man, a Hulu original series based on Brian K. Vaughan’s comic series of the same name.
8. Tom Phelan
Like most celebrities, Tom Phelan is very busy. He is a Twitch Streamer, YouTube personality, and actor. You may know him from Criminal Minds, F*&% the Prom Jerry, and his other on-screen appearances. However, as Cole on The Fosters, he became the first transgender teen on a major network show to portray a transgender teen. For that groundbreaking work, we’re bumping him into the top ten.
7. Alex Blue Davis
Alex Blue Davis has acted in several shows, but he’s best known for playing Parker on Grey’s Anatomy. Fans call him ‘the most underrated intern’ and still hold out hope for a return of the character who left the show after three years. The actor does more than spend time on screen, however. He tirelessly advocates for numerous charities, from the Navajo Water Project and HIV/AIDS to the World Wildlife Fund and so many more.
6. Janet Mock
If you are a fan of Pose, you probably already know who Janet Mock is since she writes, directs, and produces the show. Not only is Mock the first trans woman of color hired as a writer for a TV series, but she is a contributing editor at Marie Claire and has published two memoirs as well. Her first book, Redefining Realness, is a New York Times bestseller.
5. Kataluna Enriquez
On 27 June 2021, Kataluna Enriquez made history when she was crowned Miss Nevada USA. As the first transwoman to compete in the Miss USA contest, she was shocked when she was eliminated exceptionally early in this year’s competition. We think Kataluna deserved a better shot, but changing things and making them better for future generations isn’t always a smooth path. Someday we may have a transgender Miss USA, and when that happens, it will be because of Kataluna, even if she ultimately isn’t the one to wear that crown.
4. Lana and Lilly Wachowski
The Wachowski’s are writers, directors, and producers. We are mentioning them together since they typically work together and because they are arguably the most famous transgender siblings in Hollywood today. This incredible duo is most famous for The Matrix, a trilogy. The series is known for its dystopian future and superb fight scenes, primarily starring Keanu Reeves, but as a story, they are a (confirmed) metaphor about being a transgender person.
3. Asia Kate Dillon
Asia Kate Dillon has made the news a lot lately. As a trans, non-binary person who has played many roles, their most groundbreaking work to date is playing the openly non-binary character, Taylor, on Billions. According to Sho.com, “Dillon is the first non-binary gender identifying actor to ever be cast in a major television series.” Breaking the gender binary may not be the ‘traditional’ sort of transgender many people think of. Luckily, Asia and others like them are helping to educate the public. If you’re not entirely clear on what the term means, non-binary is a gender identity that falls outside the male and female dichotomy. By definition, anyone nonbinary is also transgender because they have left behind the M or F checkmark on their birth certificate. There are more than two ways to transition away from your assigned gender.
2. Elliot Page
Elliot Page has been a beloved character since way back when he starred in Juno. Obviously, he has made some significant personal changes since then, but we love a success story. He might have been shunned for his fearless public transition in another time and place, but today he is making news for sharing thirst trap pics of his abs. Media outlets like EOnline are resharing those triumphant self-love images, and we couldn’t be happier to see them.
1. Laverne Cox
Arguably the most famous transgender woman in the world, Laverne Cox, is a dynamo. As an outspoken LGBTQIA+ advocate, she has helped make inroads that will last for generations. Laverne burst onto the scene in Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black, but she didn’t stop there. At almost fifty, this Emmy-nominated actress and documentary film producer uses her fame and voice to show the world that being an incredible, successful woman has nothing to do with what someone wrote on your birth certificate.
Transgender people have always been at the forefront of the fight for equal rights. While we’re happy to share these twenty incredible celebrities, they are just a few among hundreds of thousands of trans people. The transgender community is still struggling to have fundamental human rights like bathroom access, healthcare, and quite literally the right to exist as they are without fear. While this list of twenty of the most popular transgender celebrities is a beautiful affirmation of how far we’ve come, the road ahead is still a long one.