Transgender celebrities are coming out of the woodwork more than ever. Luckily for those of us who are trans, this means more representation. It also means that cisgendered people (i.e. people who are not trans) get better ideas of who we are beyond the stereotypical “Oh no, the hot chick is a man” trope (which is inherently dangerous and harms trans women in a very clear way).
That being said, here’s a list of 8 trans celebrities you can look up to.
1. Hari Nef
Hari Nef is an actress who jumped onto the fashion scene in March 2014 when a photographer discovered her Instagram. She’s trans and Jewish, and very proud of both.
Nef made it clear in a Vogue interview that being trans is “not the most interesting thing about her,” but despite this, she advocates for trans people on her Twitter often.
dear journalists and also everyone:
would you introduce viola davis as a "black actress?"
would you introduce kristen stewart as a "gay actress?"
would you introduce millicent simmonds as a "deaf actress?"
no? okay, cool: so please stop introducing me as a "trans actress"
— hari nef (@harinef) September 14, 2018
2. Elliot Fletcher
Whether you know him as Trevor from “Shameless,” Noah from “Faking It” or Aaron from “The Fosters,” Elliot Fletcher is a rising star. He was named one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” in 2017, and continues to impress with his career.
As a trans advocate, he said in an interview with The New York Times that, “I happily tell people because my goal in life is not only to become a successful musician but also, a trans advocate. I have so much love for my trans family and I want to spread that love as much as I can.”
Fletcher is especially important because trans masculine representation is often not as common as trans feminine representation — although, again, trans feminine representation is still often done badly.
3. Zaya Wade
While Zaya Wade is newly out and fairly young at age 12, I’m expecting big things from her. The daughter of Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union, she’s made a splash in the trans community, and there’s high hopes for that whole family as far as trans advocacy goes.
Dwyane Wade announced Zaya Wade’s coming out in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres. Zaya Wade is one of the younger trans celebrities out right now, and this means she (hopefully) has a long career ahead of her.
4 and 5. Lana and Lilly Wachowski
If you know “The Matrix,” “V for Vendetta” or “Sense8,” you’re watching the work of the Wachowski sisters, famed directors and trans women. Lana Wachowski came out in 2012, and was followed in 2019 by her sister, Lilly Wachowski, who made a statement to Chicago’s Windy City Times, where she said, “So yeah, I’m transgender. And yeah, I’ve transitioned.”
The directors have won the Saturn award for best director for their work on “The Matrix.” The Wachowski sisters are important to the community as one of the few trans directors out right now.
6. Sam Smith
Sam Smith is a singer best known for their song “Stay With Me,” which won the Grammy for song of the year in 2015. They also won three other Grammys that year, including best new artist, record of the year and best pop vocal album. They came out as nonbinary in 2019, and have since announced a new album coming out in May 2020, called “To Die For.”
Four singles have been released from that album, including “Dancing With A Stranger,” “I Feel Love,” “How Do You Sleep?” and the title track. Smith has made it clear to everyone that use of their pronouns is important, and often advocates for themselves in interviews and social media presence, which in turn helps many others.
7. Jamie Clayton
Best known for her role as Nomi Marks in “Sense8,” Jamie Clayton is an actress that started out as a makeup artist on the VH1 show “TRANSform Me.”
The next year, she was cast in the show “Hung” with the reoccurring role of Kyla for Season 3. She was honored in 2011 by Out magazine as part of their annual Out 100 awards.
8. Kye Allums
Finishing out our list is Kye Allums, a former college basketball player for the George Washington University women’s team, who came out as trans in 2010. He is the first openly transgender NCAA Division I college athlete. Allums travels the country to talk about life as a transgender man, and in 2015, he was inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.
Allums is a pioneer for trans rights in sports, and his coming out helped trans athletes across the nation. His story is especially important to remember with so many trans youth athlete bans surfacing in legislation across the nation.
These celebrities are all important to the idea of representation in media. When you don’t see anyone that is like you (as many trans children, including myself, did not), it’s harder to express yourself. Many articles have been written on the subject of representation of cis women (like this one), but we need to start talking about other groups that aren’t represented as much. That’s why lists like these are so important — because seeing others that share your story makes a difference.