Even though the media coverage of Bruce Jenner’s transition seems to be hitting an all time high before even coming out, the Olympic medalist is just the latest in a long line of transgender celebrities.
Check out some of the most famous transgender people, who have either broken new ground or dedicated their lives to trans rights activism, contributing to a visibility that is much needed for trans youth.
Even though Laverne Cox got her big break on “Orange Is the New Black”, the trans actress and LGBT advocate has been in showbiz for a while, and her career started taking off on the 2008 reality show “I Want to Work for Diddy”.
She’s not just one of the most famous transgender people, she is also on the 2015 Time 100 Most Influential People List and 2015 People World’s Most Beautiful Women List.
The only child of Cher and Sony Bono, Chaz came out as a lesbian in 1995, and started his transition in 2008. By 2010, he was legally a man and had changed his name from Chastity to Chaz. Bono has promoted many causes, from the Human Rights Campaign to National Coming Out Day.
Even though the rumors about Lana transitioning started in the early 2000s, her first public appearance as a woman was in 2012. As one of the Wachowski siblings who directed the Matrix trilogy, “Speed Racer” and “Cloud Atlas”, she’s one of the most famous transgender people and the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender.
The first transgender model on “America’s Next Top Model”, Isis King also came back for the “All-Stars Cycle” and she became the first openly transgender model to work for American Apparel. She’s not just a visible trans activist, she also has her own fashion line in the works.
Even though she never achieved the same level of fame as her siblings Patricia, Rosanna and David, Alexis Arquette is also one of the most famous transgender people thanks to appearances in movies like “The Wedding Singer” and “Threesome” and TV shows that include “Friends” and “Californication”.
Known as the first transgender actress to be cast as a recurring transgender character in a prime time series (“Dirty Sexy Money”), Candis Cayne began her career as a drag performer and choreographer. “I’m not trying to be a spokeswoman for the transgender community; I just want to be looked at as a living, breathing, happy human being,” she told The Advocate.
The Brazilian fashion model who became Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci’s muse, Lea T is definitely one of the most famous transgender people. She became the first openly transgender model to front a global cosmetics brand in 2014, when she became the face of Redken, and has appeared in fashion editorials in Vogue Paris and Interview.
R. Kelly’s youngest child, 14 year old Jay Kelly also made waves when he came out as transgender. After identifying as a boy from the age of 6, Jay opened up about his transition on Ask.fm and confirmed that he has a girlfriend.
Definitely one of the most famous transgender people, Amanda Lepore is also one of the original Club Kids, and a muse to fashion photographer David LaChappelle. Lepore is a transgender icon thanks to her fashion campaigns for M.A.C. Cosmetics and Heatherette. She also released and album and four EPs since her musical debut in 2005.
After competing in the third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, Carmen Carrera came out as transgender and quickly became an activist for trans rights. She later attacked TLC’s “Cake Boss” after she appeared on the program to promote equality, but was called “a man” by Buddy Valastro. “People get bullied, beat up, and killed for being trans because of this ignorance!” she wrote on Facebook after the incident. Other “Drag Race” contestants who have transitioned include Season 1’s Sonique, Season 4’s Kenya Michaels, and Season 5’s Monica Beverly Hillz.
The latest addition to the list of famous transgender people is Aydian Dowling, a video blogger who’s currently winning the popular vote for the Men’s Health 2015 Cover Model Contest. Even though he already has over 50,000 votes, we’ll only know if he will be the first transgender man to appear on the cover of the magazine in June.