Elliot Page, Janet Mock, and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez pose at events.

30 transgender celebrities who broke barriers

Written by:
June 14, 2022
Updated on January 19, 2023
Michael Loccisano // Getty Images; Jamie McCarthy // Getty Images; Rachel Murray // Getty Images for MAKERS

30 transgender celebrities who broke barriers

At the forefront of the movement for equal rights are transgender people, serving as the most fervent activists for the rights of LGBTQ+ people worldwide.

For the past few decades, transgender people have demonstrated their skills and passions in various fields and industries. By excelling at what they do, they have broken barriers, helping to progress social norms and attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people and gender. By using their profile and social status, these trans celebrities have acted as guiding lights to young LGBTQ+ people all over the world.

To that end, Stacker compiled a list of 30 prolific transgender celebrities, covering not only their individual backgrounds and bodies of work but also detailing any famous firsts they accomplished through their work and activism, if applicable. There are no politicians on this list.

These figures are actors, musicians, models, athletes, artists, and influencers. They are prominent not only for being transgender individuals in their fields but also for contributing to and advancing their fields overall. Whether they have been out their entire life or only came out in the middle of their career, they have served as inspirations to many.

Through the hardships and obstacles they faced from their peers and society, these figures have emerged in the mainstream, paving the way for more LGBTQ+ people to follow. Read on to see which of these celebrities you recognize and whose work you have followed.

Andreja Pejić poses on the runway.
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Stefania D'Alessandro/WireImage // Getty Images

Andreja Pejic

Hailing from present-day Bosnia-Herzegovina, Andreja Pejić has modeled for both women's and men's clothing. Pejić has been featured on the covers of Elle, Marie Claire, and GQ and became the first transgender model profiled by Vogue in 2015. In addition to becoming one of the most prolific transgender models in the world, Pejić has appeared as a guest judge on "Britain's Next Top Model" and acted in 2022's "Daliland" and "The Other Me."

Asia Kate Dillon poses at ‘John Wick 3’ premiere.
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Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic // Getty Images

Asia Kate Dillon

Actor Asia Kate Dillon is the first nonbinary performer to portray a major role in an American television show, playing Taylor Mason in "Billions." They have been nominated for several Critics Choice Television Awards and co-starred in "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum." Their presence in film and television has helped observers learn about the nonbinary experience and the use of singular they/them pronouns, resulting in such awards ceremonies as the MTV Awards making some of their categories gender-neutral and inclusive.

Portrait of Billy Tipton at piano.
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Billy Tipton

For several decades in the 20th century, Billy Tipton was one of the most accomplished jazz musicians of his time. As a bandleader and a pianist, Tipton toured the country and released several successful albums. Tipton, assigned female at birth, changed his gender presentation in the early 1930s to fit the "jazz band image" at the time; his status as a trans man was unknown until after his death and was a surprise to even his closest friends and family.

Caitlyn Jenner speaks at event.
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Caitlyn Jenner

One of the most prolific coming-out moments from a celebrity in the modern era was that of Caitlyn Jenner, who is a long-retired gold medalist decathlete. Jenner's transition sparked publicity and wide discussions about the transgender experience, and she would win accolades such as the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY Awards for sharing that of her own.

Candis Cayne poses at event.
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Candis Cayne

Before her successful acting career, Candis Cayne performed as a drag queen in the early 1990s. She then began to appear in film and on television, including some projects by RuPaul. By 2007, Cayne had a spot on the television show "Dirty Sexy Money," becoming the first transgender actress to portray a recurring role as a transgender character on prime time television.

Caroline Cossey poses for portrait.
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Caroline Cossey

After the release of the 1981 James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only," in which model Caroline Cossey appeared as an extra and a modeling gig for Playboy, British tabloids outed Cossey as a transgender woman. While the incident severely upset her, Cossey continued her modeling career and fought for trans rights in the U.K., with her efforts reaching all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

Chaz Bono smiles at event.
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Chaz Bono

As the child of Sonny Bono and Cher, Chaz Bono has received media attention since early in life. Before his transition, tabloids outed him as a lesbian, and his transition to a male began in earnest during the late 2000s. Chaz has since been a prominent LGBTQ+ activist and advocate. He proceeded to share his story in a 2011 documentary film, "Becoming Chaz," and later competed in "Dancing with the Stars," both of which helped to spur conversation about transgender people.

Chris Mosier speaks on a panel.
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Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival // Getty Images

Chris Mosier

Transgender athletes have always faced difficult battles within their fields due to the gender-separated nature of many events, but triathlete Chris Mosier has instigated change in sports. Through Mosier's challenging the International Olympic Committee policy, he was able to participate in the Duathlon Age Group World Championship Race and many events afterward. Mosier was the first transgender man to compete in Olympic trials with other men, and he was the first transgender athlete to participate in the "Body Issue" of the now-defunct ESPN The Magazine.

Christine Jorgensen smiles at event.
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Christine Jorgensen

In the 1950s, Christine Jorgensen was the first known person to undergo sex reassignment surgery, identifying as a woman some years after her service in World War II. With her wit and cadence, Jorgensen became profiled in the news and advocated for transgender people while also acting and performing. As a spokesperson for transgender people, Jorgensen has remained an influential figure even decades after her death.

Fallon Fox poses at Emery Awards.
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Fallon Fox

Now-retired MMA fighter Fallon Fox struggled with her gender identity for most of her early life, eventually receiving reassignment surgery. After becoming an MMA fighter in the women's division, Fox came out as transgender, which led to controversy and debate over whether or not she would be allowed to compete against other women. While her career has ended, outlets like Outsports deemed Fox the "bravest athlete in history."

Gigi Gorgeous poses at event.
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Sarah Morris // Getty Images

Gigi Gorgeous

Giselle Loren Lazzarato Getty, known professionally as Gigi Gorgeous, was one of the earlier makeup artists building a following on YouTube in the late 2000s. She initially identified as a gay man before coming out as a transgender woman in 2013. In August 2016, she was detained at the Dubai International Airport due to her transgender status and social norms in the United Arab Emirates, which sparked calls for equal protection and reform in anti-transgender laws.

Hari Nef poses at Film Independent Spirit Awards.
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Hari Nef

As the first transgender person to appear on the cover of a major British magazine, Hari Nef has used her modeling and acting career to speak out about trans issues. Along with her work in fashion and modeling, Nef is also a writer; her work has appeared in publications like Vice and a sex-advice column. Her most familiar work in film and television includes appearances on the TV show "Transparent," the 2018 film "Assassination Nation," and as Doctor Barbie in the hit 2023 movie "Barbie."

Hunter Schafer poses at ‘Euphoria’ event.
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Emma McIntyre/WireImage // Getty Images

Hunter Schafer

Model Hunter Schafer has modeled for several prominent labels, including Tommy Hilfiger and Coach. In 2019, Schafer captivated audiences with her role on HBO's "Euphoria," in which she co-stars as the love interest of Zendaya's protagonist. Her role was praised by viewers and critics alike, and Schafer crafted her character's backstory with showrunner Sam Levinson for a sense of authenticity. With "Euphoria" bringing her to fame, Schafer has been a prominent LGBTQ+ activist. Schafer made her blockbuster debut in 2023's "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes."

Jamie Clayton poses at sense8 finale event.
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Leon Bennett/WireImage // Getty Images

Jamie Clayton

Actor-model Jamie Clayton found herself drawn to the Netflix show "Sense8," as it featured a transgender woman character written by transgender writers. Clayton portrayed Nomi Marks in the series and would go on to land several TV shows, films, and video game projects, including "The Snowman," "The Neon Demon," "Designated Survivor," and "Mass Effect: Andromeda." In the docuseries "Equal," Clayton even portrayed transgender icon Christine Jorgensen.

Jazz Jennings poses at Build Studios.
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Jazz Jennings

Seeing a significantly young and prominent trans person in the media is important for other trans children who may be going through a difficult time, and Jazz Jennings was able to offer that representation. Jennings was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at the early age of 5, and since transitioning, she has made multiple media appearances to speak about her challenges on shows like "20/20" as well as on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Since then, Jennings has launched a number of initiatives and charities supporting transgender children.

Josie Totah poses for photographers at event.
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Rich Fury/Getty Images for GLAAD

Josie Totah

Born in 2001, Josie Totah is one of the youngest out transgender performers in the entertainment industry. After appearing on the Disney Channel show "Jessie," Totah would go on to receive praise for her performance in the 2016 film "Other People." It wasn't until 2018 that she came out as a transgender woman. She's since appeared in projects like Peacock's "Saved by the Bell," which she also helped produce.

Kye Allums poses for portrait.
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Kye Allums

While at George Washington University, Kye Allums was part of the university's women's basketball team. While playing on the team, he came out as a trans man and played one more season, becoming the first openly gay transgender athlete to play in NCAA Division I sports. After graduating, Allums traveled the country and acted as a public speaker, sharing his own experiences and advice on how to handle bullying toward trans youth.

Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski pose at event.
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Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski

Best known for writing and directing the "Matrix" films, Lana and Lilly Wachowski both came out as trans women in 2010 and 2016, respectively. The "Matrix" films have been pointed out for containing trans allegories, and the duo has continued to be inclusive in their works, especially with their Netflix series "Sense8." Lana and Lilly also directed "Speed Racer," "Cloud Atlas," and "Jupiter Ascending." Lana has since directed 2021's "The Matrix Resurrections" by herself.

Laura Jane Grace performs onstage.
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Laura Jane Grace

Punk rock star Laura Jane Grace is the founder, lead singer, and guitarist of the band Against Me! She is one of the few openly transgender punk rock artists in the industry, coming out as a trans woman in 2012. To reflect on her identity, Against Me! independently released a well-received concept album entitled "Transgender Dysphoria Blues" in 2014. She wrote about her punk rock experiences and the decision to transition in a 2016 memoir.

Laverne Cox speaks at event.
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Laverne Cox

Quite possibly the most famous trans celebrity is actor and activist Laverne Cox, primarily known for her role on the Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black." Cox has the distinction of being the first transgender performer nominated for an Emmy in an acting category. She went on to be the first transgender actor with a series regular role on a broadcast network for her work on CBS' "Doubt." As an activist, Cox is credited with having a large role in the national discussion about transgender people in the United States.

Yasmin Finney attends premiere at BRI London Film Festival.
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Yasmin Finney

At only age 20, actor Yasmin Finney played a major transgender character in the 60th-anniversary special for the popular British sci-fi show "Doctor Who." Finney, who was nominated for a Children's & Family Emmy Award for her role on "Heartstopper," plays Rose Noble, the daughter of the Doctor's companion Donna Noble, and her gender identity plays a pivotal role in the climax of one of the episodes. After Finney made waves with her role, "Doctor Who" has since employed additional trans actors to play roles on the series.

Michaela Jaé Rodriguez poses at event.
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Michaela Jae Rodriguez

Best known for her role on FX's "Pose," Michaela Jaé Rodriguez is the lead woman actor in what is the largest transgender cast in a television show to date. In 2021, Rodriguez became the first transgender woman nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. The following year, Rodriguez made another meaningful leap for trans representation in the entertainment industry by claiming the Best Actress trophy at the Golden Globe Awards, making her the first trans woman actor to win the honor in the history of the awards.

Close-up hand on guitar with pink and purple lights.
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Nat Puff

Better known by the stage name Left at London, Nat Puff is a singer-songwriter and internet personality. She is best known for her viral videos on Vine and her parodies of musicians and comedians while also being an accomplished musician in her own right for her "Transgender Street Legend" albums. Since her social media presence has grown, she frequently shares fundraising campaigns for a number of struggling transgender individuals.

Desk in home production studio with professional podcasting tools.
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DC Studio // Shutterstock

Natalie 'ContraPoints' Wynn

In response to the increasing number of right-wing video essays on YouTube, Natalie Wynn, best known by her online name ContraPoints, began producing elaborate counterargument video essays on the platform. Her videos are known for their detail in terms of both her nuanced arguments and her intricate production and costume design. She remains one of the most-followed leftist YouTubers, alongside Hbomberguy and Philosophy Tube, both of whom have campaigned for trans equality and the latter who came out as a trans woman in 2021.

Nikkie de Jager accepting award.
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Nikkie de Jager

Popularly known as NikkieTutorials online, Nikkie de Jager is an online influencer and makeup artist with over 1 billion views on YouTube. For her work, she's received accolades from Forbes and the Teen Choice Awards, and in early 2020, she came out as transgender. Later that same year, she had the distinction of serving as the online host of "Eurovision: Europe Shine a Light," which replaced the traditional Eurovision Song Contest due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hennessy Winkler attends "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street" Broadway revival opening night.
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Hennessy Winkler

As one of the few out trans men actors on Broadway, Hennessy Winkler has already amassed a number of impressive stage credits. One of Winkler's biggest successes was winning the role of Will Parker on the "Oklahoma!" national tour. While Winkler continues to adjust his performances and vocals due to his transition, his vocal range was one of the factors leading to his being cast in the ensemble of the 2023 "Sweeney Todd" revival, his first Broadway role.

Brian Michael Smith speaks at the 2023 Human Rights Campaign Los Angeles Dinner.
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Brian Michael Smith

Television actor Brian Michael Smith had identified as male since his early childhood, even playing football for the boy's team in high school. Smith studied acting and film production at Kent State University; after a few minor roles on shows including "Girls" and "Person of Interest," Smith got his big break in "Queen Sugar" as transgender police officer Antoine Wilkin and later became a series regular on Fox's "9-1-1: Lone Star."

Elliot Page attends the "Close to You" premiere.
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Elliot Page

Before transitioning, Elliot Page starred in a number of films, including "Hard Candy," "X-Men: The Last Stand," and "Juno," the last of which garnered Page an Oscar nomination. Page came out as a trans man at the end of 2020, with Netflix even retroactively changing his credit through all of his previous films to reflect his name. Page's character on "The Umbrella Academy" also transitioned to mirror his real-life transition.

Janet Mock attends the 90th Annual Academy Awards.
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Janet Mock

Writer Janet Mock has written two memoirs detailing her experiences as a Black and Kanaka Maoli trans woman. After writing for several outlets such as People and HuffPost, Mock established a career in television writing and production. Mock was a producer for the show "Pose," which featured the largest cast of transgender performers, while writing and directing several episodes. Mock has since collaborated with "Pose" co-creator Ryan Murphy as a director or writer for "The Politician," "Hollywood," and "Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story."

Laith Ashley attends the 2023 WeHo Pride Parade.
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Laith Ashley

Swifties entranced by the music video for Taylor Swift's song "Lavender Haze" likely discovered model Laith Ashley for the first time. A trans model and activist, Ashley grew up in Harlem and came out as transgender in 2013. After posting pictures on Instagram, he got the attention of "Orange Is the New Black" celeb Laverne Cox, and Ashley began modeling for several brands, such as Calvin Klein, and was featured in stories published by British GQ, Vogue France, and Out magazine. Playing Swift's love interest in a music video has renewed public interest in the model's career.

Story editing by Carren Jao. Copy editing by Paris Close.

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