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13 transgender trailblazers you need to know about

On International Transgender Day of Visibility (31 March), meet some of the trans people changing the world right now.

2021-03-30

Today (31 March) marks International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to continue celebrating and uplifting members of the trans community, who still all too often find their identities reduced to the subject of fear-mongering tabloid articles and childhood destroying essays from formerly beloved authors.

Every trans person is changing the world by virtue of simply being themselves, but here we're shining a light on 13 individuals whose professional work is also forging a better future.

Some you may have heard of, and others may be new to you, but what all of these powerful individuals have in common is a commitment to excellence in their respective fields.

Meet our 13 transgender trailblazers you need to know about below:

Elliot Page - Actor

One of the most visible LGBTQ figures in Hollywood, Elliot Page came out as trans and non-binary in 2020.

The Oscar-nominated Juno actor addressed their fans on social media in December, writing: “I love that I am trans. And I love that I am queer. And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive.”

Determined to “change this world for the better”, Elliot, 33 — who is married to partner Emma Portner — stars in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy and is reportedly in talks for a Marvel Cinematic Universe film role.

Gottmik - Drag & make-up artist

Herstory was made this year when Gottmik sashayed onto RuPaul’s Drag Race as the first trans man to compete as a contestant.

The show has been criticised in the past for excluding trans and non-binary queens, but Gottmik, aka Kade Gottlieb, is looking to represent on season 13 — and is hungry for the crown: “I need to be the first trans winner… period,” he vowed.

LA-based Gottmik, 24, has already made a name for himself as a makeup artist, working with the likes of Paris Hilton, Adam Lambert and Kim Petras — he is also responsible for Lil Nas X’s sickening Nicki Minaj Halloween look.

Aaron Philip - Model and activist

Aaron Philip puts the ‘super’ into supermodel. In 2018, at the tender age of 17, she became the first black, transgender, physically disabled model to be represented by a major modelling agency, signing to Elite Model Management.

An advocate for both the LGBTQ+ community and disability rights, Aaron has worked to improve visibility for marginalised identities in society.

She has featured in editorials in Dazed and Teen Vogue, as well as bagging campaigns for the likes of Sephora and Moschino — we call that global fashion domination.

Sarah McBride - Delaware state senator-elect

First trans person to address a major US party convention; first trans person to intern at The White House — Sarah McBride’s life has been defined by firsts. And when the 30-year-old National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign was sworn in as state senator for Delaware’s 1st district in January, she officially became the highest-ranking transgender official in US history.

But with criminal justice reform and improved healthcare access at the centre of her platform, Sarah isn’t changing the world through simple representation alone — she’s using her position to forge a better one every single day.

Jazz Jennings - Activist & reality TV star

Jazz Jennings first stepped into the spotlight in 2007, when she was six years old — wearing a dress, she appeared on US television and opened up about being a transgender child.

She has been a prominent media figure ever since, releasing her own children’s book, a memoir (2016’s Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen featured on the list of the most banned books of the decade) and, with the support of her family, she set up the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation.

Now 20, Jazz is the star of her own reality TV series, TLC’s I Am Jazz, holding a mirror to the trans experience.

Ana Arriola - Director of Product Design at Microsoft 

Passionate and driven, Ana Arriola is the director of Product Design at technology giant Microsoft.

The accomplished craftswoman has brought multiple award-winning products and services to market, and previously worked at Facebook. Flying the flag as a queer latinx womxn of trans and non-binary experience, Ana has been very open about her journey and her fears about how that might affect her career.

During a conference held in 2016, she memorably told the crowd: “Don’t be told how or what you should be doing in your life. You define yourself.

Janet Mock - Writer, director, executive producer & trans rights activist

Writer, director, executive producer & trans rights activist Blazing trails through the film and TV industry, Janet Mock became the first openly trans woman to ink an overall — and multi-million-dollar — deal with Netflix, giving her free rein to write, direct and produce her own series.

Renowned for her Emmy-nominated work on Pose — third season is due in 2021 — Janet also sprinkled her magic on The Politician and Hollywood. Next up are Ryan Murphy’s Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story, and her first film, Scandalous!, about the love affair between Sammy Davis Jr and Kim Novak. Janet has also published two memoirs, Redefining Realness (2014) and Surpassing Certainty (2017).

Charlie Martin - Racing driver

In Charlie Martin we have a genuine transgender hero in our midst, competing in some of the hardest-fought motor-racing series in the UK and Europe.

Her career has advanced through British Hillclimb and supporting the British GT Championship, to the Michelin Le Mans Cup and the 2020 German VLN Championship, which saw her become the first transgender person to compete in the Nurburgring 24-hour endurance race.

She finished fourth in class. For 2021, Martin, an ambassador for the Racing Pride initiative, has signed for the Praga team in the Britcar championship. Don’t bet against her…

Erica MalunguinhoSao Paulo state assembly

Two years ago, Erica Malunguinho made history as the first black trans woman elected as a state representative in Brazil. A member of the Socialism and Liberation party, Erica ran amid a storm of racist and homophobic campaigning from far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. She obtained over 50,000 votes, to win a seat in the Sao Paulo legislature.

“We have a gigantic mission to recover the notion of politics for the people,” she told HuffPost. “Institutional politics was placed far from the people, mainly far from historically vulnerable groups. Our mission is to make that rapprochement and humanise politics.” 

Renae Green - Associate director, Transwave Jamaica

An LGBTQ, youth and women’s rights advocate, Renae Green is fighting for transgender rights as associate director of Transwave, which works to advance the health, welfare and wellbeing of the trans and gender non-conforming community in Jamaica and the Caribbean, with a focus on access to non-discriminatory healthcare, education, housing and employment.

Renae is responsible for the planning, development and implementation of its advocacy strategies. She is also the LGBT representative of the Jamaica Country Co-ordinating Mechanism for the Global Fund and has worked with the Kaleidoscope Trust.

Melissa TillingCEO for Charitable Travel

Melissa Tilling is one of the bravest women in the travel biz: “I’m proud, as a transgender woman, that we launched our social enterprise at the start of Pride month in the middle of a pandemic,” she told Attitude. “The principles of Pride in terms of self-affirmation, dignity and equality are entrenched in our social purpose, as is helping a wide range of charities rebuild and better help their beneficiaries.”

And that is what her travel agency, Charitable Travel, hopes to do by donating all profits to good causes. Customers can support their chosen charity with a donation equal to 5 per cent of the holiday price every time they book.

Dr Juani Bermejo Vega - Quantum scientist & activist

A real torchbearer in her field, Dr Juani Bermejo Vega is a Spanish scientist and trans queer activist. Specialising in quantum sciences, she has worked as a researcher at the Free University of Berlin, and the Max Planck Institution of Quantum Optics, in Munich.

Dr Vega – who did her undergraduate studies at the University of Salamanca in her native Spain — is the co-founder of the Q-Turn Workshop, promoting diversity, equity, workers’ rights and responsible research.

Determined to create an inclusive space for all in science, Dr Vega won’t be putting her activism on the (Bunsen) burner any time soon.

June Chua - Co-founder of The T Project

Alongside her late sister Alicia, June Chua kick-started The T Project, the first and only social service for the transgender community in Singapore. In 2014, the former sex worker — and proud of it — opened The T Shelter, offering a safe haven to female trans people and those living with HIV.

Four years later, the Alicia Community Centre was set up to provide a space for trans and non-binary people, particularly youth. Apart from offering peer-counselling services, the centre is a non-judgemental place for LGBTQ youths to meet up and get support. Needless to say, June has activism down to a, ahem, T…