15 Transgender Activists You Need to Know About

November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance in which we memorialize those who have been killed as a result of transphobia. Here are 15 amazing transgender individuals who have made a tremendous impact on society.

Margot Touitou
Created by Margot Touitou
On Mar 29, 2017

Laverne Cox.

Known for her portrayal of Sophia Burset on the hit show “Orange Is The New Black”, Laverne Cox is an Emmy nominated transgender pioneer. Before appearing on OINTB, Cox was a star on several reality TV shows including “TRANSform Me” and “I Want to Work For Diddy”, making her the first African-American transgender woman to produce and star in her own TV show. She has been honored with many awards throughout her career and continues to advocate for transgender issues.


Janet Mock.

Janet Mock is the former People.com editor as well as an outstanding voice for the transgender community. Ever since publicly coming out as transgender in 2011 in a Marie Claire interview, she has been an outspoken advocate. She has received numerous awards for her work including the Sylvia Rivera Activist Award and the Advocate’s 2014 list of the 50 Most Influential LGBT People in Media.


Christine Jorgensen.

Christine Jorgensen was a former Navy Private from The Bronx, NY who was the first widely known individual to undergo sexual reassignment surgery which was completed in 1952. Her transition electrified the tabloids which allowed her to begin a series of tours giving lectures and performing at nightclubs. She remained a prominent trans activist throughout her life. She died of cancer in 1989 at the age of 62.


Renée Richards.

Renée Richards is an American ophthalmologist and former professional tennis player who transitioned in 1975. After her surgery, she was denied entry into the US Open and after disputing the ban, was allowed to participate when the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor. She continues to advocate for the rights of transgender individuals by challenging gender roles and advocating for the community.


Leslie Feinberg

Leslie Feinberg was a pioneer in trans and lesbian issues who authored “Stone Butch Blues” in 1993. Feinberg’s work influenced many and had an impact on popular culture, academic research and political activism. Feinberg died on November 15, 2014 of complications from several tick-born infections including Lyme disease.


Kye Allums

Kye Allums is the first openly transgender athlete in NCAA history who played basketball for George Washington University. She is an advocate for the transgender community and has founded Project I am Enough, which encourages self-love and self-esteem for all.


Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia is remembered as one of the instigators of the infamous 1969 Stonewall Uprising, a series of demonstrations and riots against the police by members of the LGBT community in New York City’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. The riots are considered one of most pivotal events in the fight for LGBT rights in the US. She founded the Gay Liberation Front, the Gay Activists Alliance and Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group dedicated to helping young, homeless drag queens and trans women. She received numerous awards and accolades in her lifetime. Sylvia died of cancer on February 19, 2002.


Diego Sanchez

Diego is the first openly transgender person to work as a legislative staff member on Capitol Hill and serves as a policy advisor to Congressman Barney Frank.


GiGi Gorgeous

Gigi Gorgeous is a YouTube star, beauty and fashion expert and trans woman. Her channel has over one million subscribers who have watched as she has documented her transition throughout the last few years. She encourages her users to be themselves through a series of hair and makeup tutorials and personal stories about her life as a trans woman. She receives loads of support from her loyal fans who tune in to watch her weekly videos which document her life.


Carmen Carrera

Carmen Carrera is a model, reality TV star, and actress who first made a name for herself on Season 3 of the hit show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” in 2011. She continued making a name for herself when a petition began circulating requesting that Carmen be allowed to participate in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. She is an outspoken supporter of the LGBT community and continues to work as a high fashion model.


Ali Forney

Ali Forney was a young, homeless transgender New Yorker who sometimes went by the name Luscious. Forney lived a troubled life and was rejected by his family for being gay and ended up on the streets. After joining a group home, he was mentored by counselors and soon became advocate for homeless LGBT youths. Ali Forney was tragically murdered in the streets of Harlem in 1997. The Ali Forney Center was named after him and opened in 2002 as a safe haven for LGBT homeless youth.


Amanda Lepore

Amanda Lepore is a widely recognized transgender model, actress, recording artist and nightlife icon. She has often been the subject of media and tabloid buzz and has appeared in the work of world renowned photographers, David LaChapelle and Terry Richardson. Her face has appeared in campaigns for famous companies including MAC cosmetics and she has recorded a number of singles including “My Hair Looks Fierce”.


Venus Xtravaganza

Venus Xtravaganza was a young, transgender performer who lived in New York City and was featured in the legendary documentary film, “Paris is Burning” in 1990. In the documentary, Venus shared her accounts about the transphobia she experienced throughout her life as well as her dreams of becoming a model and saving up for her sex reassignment surgery. Tragically, Venus was found strangled and stuffed under a bed in a New York hotel room at the age of 23. Her murder has never been solved.


Brandon Teena.

Teena was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and began dressing as a boy in her early teens. After enduring a string of legal troubles Brandon moved to Falls City, Nebraska where she became friends with began dating Lana Tisdale and befriended John L. Lotter and Marvin Thomas "Tom" Nissen. After finding out that Teena was assigned female at birth, they brutally raped killed him. Brandon Teena’s story has become a legacy thanks to Hilary Swank’s portrayal of her life in the Academy Award winning film “Boys Don’t Cry”.


Chaz Bono.

Chaz Bono is a musician and transgender activist and the only son of Sonny and Cher. After coming out as a lesbian before transitioning, Chaz went on to write the book “Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families” in which he told the story of his coming out process. In 2010, Chaz completed his transition and remains a prominent LGBT activist and even appeared on the hit show, “Dancing With the Stars”.