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20 transgender stars you need to know about

By Joshua Haigh

It’s been a slow journey, but trans men and women are finally starting to make the impact they deserve.

These talented writers, actors, models and activists are rising stars in a world that once shunned them aside for embracing who they are.

But more importantly, they are much needed inspiring role models in a world where trans children desperately need others to to look up to and see that they can achieve anything they want to.

Take a look at these talented stars below – and remember their names, because you’re going to see them everywhere:

Laith Ashley

After struggling with his gender identity for years, model and singer Laith Ashley became one of the first transgender men to feature in a national US advertising campaign for Barney’s. The former Attitude cover star has walked in New York Fashion Week and also starred in modelling reality series Strut.

Jake Graf

Jake Graf is an award-winning actor and director who’s released several acclaimed films addressing transgender issues. In 2015, he was invited to the White House to take part in a Q&A with President Barack Obama.

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox stars as inmate Sophia Burset in hit Netflix prison drama Orange is the New Black. As well as being the first ever transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and to appear on the cover of Time magazine, she also received Attitude’s Inspiration Award last month for her activism and most recently starred in CBS series Doubt.

Aydian Dowling

Aydian Dowling is a 28-year-old body builder, activist and vlogger who was at the center of a campaign backed by thousands to get him on the cover of Men’s Health back in 2015. As well as founding transgender charity Point of Pride, the Long Island-born activist champions transgender issues through his large social media following,

Carmen Carrera

Carmen Carrera shot to fame on the third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, where she eventually finished in fifth place. It was only a year after the show ended that the actress, model and performer began her transition, and she has since graced catwalks around the globe. In 2014, she became one one of the most vocal critics of the use of transphobic slurs on Drag Race, which eventually saw the show issue an apology and drop its popular catchphrase, ‘You’ve Got She-Mail’.

Ben Melzer

In 2016, fitness model Ben Melzer became the first trans man to feature on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine in Germany. Ben struggled with his gender identity until the age of 18 before becoming the transgender spokesman he is today.

Andreja Pejić

After being scouted in a McDonald’s at just 17, Andreja Pejić had already become one of the most recognizable models in the world when she announced her transition in 2013. Now 26, she holds the titles of being the first trans model to be profiled by Vogue, to appear on the cover of GQ, and to have landed a major cosmetics contract.

Munroe Bergdorf

Munroe Bergdof is a DJ and model who was announced to be one of the faces of L’Oréal’s True Match campaign before being dropped. Bergdof transitioned at the age of 24 and the treatment was the subject of an episode of London Live’s Drag Queens of London.

Ian Harvie

A stand-up comedian and actor who came out as gay at 19 and transgender at 32. Best known for his role in the hit US show Transparent, Harvie was one of the many trans actors and actresses who filmed a letter to Hollywood this year asking for more improved roles for trans people.

Kitana Kiki Rodriguez

An American actress who rose to fame after appearing in Sean Baker’s 2015 film Tangerine. Alongside her role as Sin-Dee Rella, Rodriguez also appeared in Made In Hollywood as herself.

Jamie Clayton

Clayton moved to New York at the age of 19 to pursue a career as a makeup artist, however she soon found herself acting. Best known for staring in Netflix’s Sense8, the actress has also starred in 2017’s The Snowman and Motive. 

Gigi Gorgeous

Gigi Gorgeous is a Canadian model, actress and prominent YouTube star who publicly came out as a transgender woman and maintained her public image during and after her transition. Along with this, Gorgeous has appeared in TV shows such as Access Hollywood and The Avenue. 

Alex Bertie

Alex Bertie is a prominent YouTube star who rose to fame after vlogging his gender transition and releasing a book detailing his experience.

Rebecca Root

Root is a British actress and stand-up comedian who played the leading role in BBC2’s Boy Meets Girl. The star is also a voice coach and is recognised as one of the few openly trans actresses on mainstream television.

Balian Buschbaum

Buschbaum is a former German pole vaulter who transitioned after retiring from the sport in 2008. He also announced his name was chosen after the blacksmith in the movie Kingdom of Heaven. 

Paris Lees

Paris Lees is an English journalist and trans activists who served an eight month prison sentence after committing a robbery. Following her transition, Lees founded the first British magazine aimed at the trans community and became the first trans woman presenter on BBC Radio 1 and Channel 4.

Janet Mock

Mock is a transgender rights activist who funded her gender transition by earning money as a sex worker in her teens. Named after Janet Jackson, Mock works as a contributing editor for Marie Claire and a former staff editor of People magazine’s website. Her debut book, memoir Redefining Realness became a New York Times bestseller.

Chris Mozier

A transgender advocate and triathlete, Mosier earned a spot on the Team USA sprint duathlon men’s team for the 2016 World Championship, making him the first known trans athlete to join a US national team different from his gender assigned at birth.


Peppermint is best known for starring in RuPaul’s Drag Race and for being one of the only transgender women to be out prior to the show airing. She’s also released two albums and a documentary chronicling her life and experiences is currently being filmed.

Candis Cayne

Candis Cayne is a performance artist and actress who transitioned in the late 1990s. Best known for her role as mistress Carmelita on ABC’s Sexy Money, she has bcome the first trans actress to play a recurring trans character on primetime television.