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Most of us watched the news when Caitlyn Jenner began her transition, but there are a lot of transgender stars that you may not have known about. From a bikini-wearing bombshell to a woman who could knock you out, here are nine of the biggest transgender celebrities:
9. Laverne Cox –
This actress is known for her portrayal of Sophia Burset on the Netflix original show, Orange Is the New Black, from 2013 to the present. Cox has played other parts as well, such as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the 2016 remake of the cult-classic musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In addition to her acting career, this star has become iconic for her outstanding work as an LGBT advocate. Not only is she the first transgender woman of color to assume a starring role in such a popular television series, but Cox has also made many other firsts as well. This outspoken celeb was nominated for numerous awards and received a Daytime Emmy as an executive producer, becoming the only publicly transgender actress at the time to have won. Although she’s made leaps in the world of cultural and LGBT acceptance, Cox faced many difficult situations as a teen and young adult. After being bullied throughout her middle and elementary-school careers, she tried to take her own life. She stated during an interview that, at that time, she was ashamed of herself because she didn’t exhibit what people considered “acceptable male behavior.” Cox knew that she was different and instead of pursuing girls, she was interested in other boys her age. It wasn’t until she reached her twenties that Cox began transitioning to female. She moved to New York in hopes of getting work as an actress and ended up with her ongoing Orange Is the New Black role. Laverne also made the cover of Time magazine in an issue titled “The Transgender Tipping Point.” She’s made such a huge impact in the short time fans have known her, and she continues making waves in Hollywood and our hearts.
8. Geena Rocero –
This supermodel is known for her stunning good-looks and long-standing career sporting swimsuits on various runways and in fashion shoots. She was only twenty-one when a photographer noticed her at a restaurant in New York City. Rocero quickly signed with the NEXT Model Management agency, and her modeling career took off. She gained popularity in working with companies such as Hanes, Marriott, and Rimmel Cosmetics. It wasn’t until Rocero was thirty years old that she revealed her past to the world. During a speech she gave as part of the TED Talks series, this model turned LGBT advocate, told her audience and viewers everywhere that she is transgender. During her coming-out, she inspired others to do the same. Rocero spoke of how family members, jobs, and religions place people in difficult situations. They are pushed to accept the gender label they were born with, instead of allowing themselves to be who they are. She also talked about the time she won her first beauty pageant and how her mother supported her throughout her transition. Rocero received gender reassignment surgery in Thailand at nineteen years old. She moved to San Francisco and got her first drivers license that identified her as “female,” which she described as a groundbreaking moment in her life. Rocero has proven successful in her work as a model and an activist and continues to inspire people everywhere.
7. Fallon Fox –
This American MMA fighter knows how to be tough and proved her bravery when revealing that she was transgender back in March of 2013. She stated that even as a young child, at around the age of five, she faced hardships concerning her assigned gender. Fox contemplated various reasons for why she felt the way she did, even taking into consideration that maybe she was gay. She was extremely unsure of who she was and had never heard the word “transgender” until she reached seventeen years old. Nevertheless, she continued being dishonest with herself and others about who she was and aspired to be. When Fox was nineteen years old, she tied the knot with her wife after they found out she was pregnant. To care for the newborn and support her family financially, she became part of the United States Navy in 1996 as an operations specialist. In 2006, sometime after she left the Navy, Fox flew to Thailand to receive surgery and change her gender once and for all. She seemed to be living the life she always wanted, pursuing her career in professional fighting. But things took a turn, after her first couple of rounds in the ring, when her 2013 coming-out stirred up a lot of controversy from other female fighters, celebrities, and media. Comedian and UFC employee, Joe Rogan, had a strong opinion on the matter and made his thoughts public during one of his podcasts. He believed that the physical traits Fox possesses give her an overwhelming advantage in fights with other women. Rogan received a lot of backlash for his comments, and the argument still stands in the world of MMA. Nevertheless, Fox continues to fight and inspire transgender women across the nation.
6. Candis Cayne –
This American actress is widely known for her work in shows like The Magicians, in which she plays the Fairy Queen. She’s also made appearances in television series such as Drop Dead Diva in 2010 and Grey’s Anatomy this year. However, this star is also known for her transition to a woman, which began in 1996 after coming out publicly. She was born in Hawaii as “Brendan McDaniel” and graduated high school there, but soon decided to pursue her aspirations by moving to Los Angeles. She spent a year in the southern California city taking dance classes. Cayne then moved to New York to begin her early career as a performer. During about the first three years of her residency in the Big Apple, she worked as a drag queen and choreographer under the name “Candis Cayne.” She realized during her time there that the word “transgender” represented her feelings toward herself. In an interview with Time, Cayne discussed what it was like trying to become an actress as a transgender woman. She said that she knew it would be difficult, her initial roles including drag queens, paid lovers, or addicts. She described the time she began work for the show Dirty Sexy Money in 2007 as revolutionary for her acting career and herself. They casted Cayne as a transgender woman who was romantically sought-after by the main character. This celeb was also featured on Caitlyn Jenner’s reality series, I Am Cait, where she helped Jenner through her transition. Apparently, the two stars didn’t remain friends, but they’re both opening doors and changing the world’s views on gender labels.
5. Carmen Carrera –
Even though this woman is just beginning, she’s made many accomplishments so far in her career. She is an actress, a reality TV star, a model, and has even performed in burlesque shows. During a YouTube interview, Carrera disclosed what it was like being transgender and what made her decide to transition. She said that she took part in RuPaul’s Drag Race, a competitive reality show, because she’d had so much success as a drag queen in the past. She was already known for being very feminine and decided to begin transitioning to female after the first day of filming for the series. She stated that at twenty-five years old, she ultimately decided this was something she needed to do. She knew that if she kept the body she was given, she would never achieve true happiness. It wasn’t until people began noticing Carrera’s physical changes from hormone therapy, that she came out as transgender. The model also stated that because of the vast differences in hormonal balance throughout the process, she experienced emotional transformations similar to going through puberty. Since making her experience public knowledge, Carrera has become an advocate for transgender people and has helped with AIDS awareness. In 2014, she even graced the cover of Candy magazine alongside Laverne Cox, Geena Rocero, Janet Mock, and other transgender women. It’s safe to say this star has made a mark on pop culture’s stereotypical gender ideals.
4. Janet Mock –
As a writer, television host, and advocate for transgender rights, this woman has made an immense impact on the modern world. She has authored two books about her life and experiences as a transgender person. In 2014 and 2017, two of her memoirs, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More and Surpassing Certainty: What My Twenties Taught Me, were respectively published. Mock was honored for her activist work in 2012 when she was given the Sylvia Rivera Activist Award. She’s also received other awards such as the Inspiration Award from the GLSEN organization in 2014. In 2015, the writer spoke with Oprah about her first memoir, explaining what it was like growing up in a false body. In her book, Mock writes that she always knew she was a girl even though she couldn’t express it as a toddler, and because of that, she was often confused. A couple of years later she was a guest on The Wendy Williams Show where she spoke about her second book. Mock said she decided on the name “Janet” for herself because Janet Jackson’s music played a large part in her teenage life. She also talked about how she came out in 2011 in an article for Marie Claire magazine. Mock also discussed her married life, how she told her now-husband she is transgender, and let the world know she’s doing well. There’s no denying that this powerful woman is helping to build a world of acceptance and understanding.
3. Andreja Pejic –
This model is known for her work in magazines like Marie Claire, Elle, Vogue, Allure, and GQ. She has also made appearances in television like on the competitive show, Britain & Ireland’s Next Top Model, in which she served as a guest judge. It wasn’t until the end of 2013 that she came out as transgender, which was just after she received gender reassignment surgery. Before that, she was widely recognized as the first supermodel to be entirely androgynous. In 2015, in an interview on USA Today, Pejic spoke about how she was told throughout her young career that since she was transgender, she would be unable to sell products to other women. She also stated that through landing a contract with a big cosmetics brand, she hoped to show other women that through adversity, you can be yourself and be successful. Pejic interviewed with Allure in 2016 where she discussed her interest in makeup as a child and how she felt it related to a woman’s everyday routine. The model also talked about how many young people have told her she’s an inspiration. After speaking about her personal life and upbringing, Pejic stated that diversity needs to become something that is normal and accepted, and how the beauty industry can help achieve that. Needless to say, this model has become an icon to people everywhere because of her striking good looks and beliefs.
2. Erika Ervin –
Also known as “Amazon Eve,” this actress, model, and personal trainer has made a name for herself on and off-camera. She grew up in California, enduring bullying during high school and putting off her dreams to become a star. She attended college for theater arts and business, later changing her major to exercise physiology and law. After schooling, Ervin worked for a long time in an office setting which she hated. She faced many complications with her self-image, striving to be a weight that was anatomically impossible for someone of her stature, which is about 6’8”. After being introduced to Amazonian women, who were female warriors of Greek mythology, she grew more comfortable in her own skin. Ervin received gender reassignment surgery in 2004. She’s gained a lot of recognition for being the world’s tallest professional model and for her work as an advocate for transgender women and AIDs awareness. Amazon Eve also received attention for her role in American Horror Story from 2014 to 2015, in which she played a character with the same name. During an interview at a FanExpo, she said how happy she is to be able to meet young transgender people and inspire them to overcome insecurity. She also explained that her height has been the main characteristic that gets her noticed by others, and was the focal point of her self-doubt. However, Ervin learned to accept and embrace her height over the years. Although this successful woman has faced tough battles in the past, she’s really become somebody to admire on the road to worldwide acceptance.
1. Chaz Bono –
Born “Chastity Bono,” this famous author, LGBT advocate, and actor is Cher and her now-ex-husband Sonny Bono’s only child. He’s written a few books including Family Outing, which details his personal experience coming out to his family, and The End of Innocence, in which he wrote about his musical career, coming-out, and loss of his partner. In 1995, Bono announced to the world that he was lesbian, but it wasn’t until later that he came out as transgender. During an interview with Oprah in 2014, he told the audience that he always knew he was in the wrong body. He stated that during his childhood, his father seemed to accept him more for his boyish actions than his mother, who had always imagined a more feminine little girl. When Bono told Cher that he was gay, she initially had trouble accepting it. However, since then she has become an LGBT rights advocate herself. Around the year 2000, Chaz realized he wasn’t gay; he was transgender. He discussed later on that he never felt female in any way. So, even his relationships with lesbians often didn’t work out. It wasn’t until nine years after this realization that Bono decided to transition from female to male. Although facing his fears proved a difficult task, this star has inspired other transgender people to do the same and become who they’re meant to be.