In Hollywood, we’ve gone without true-to-life representation of trans people for way too long. On the big and small screens, there have been far too few trans characters given adequate, dynamic, or positive portrayals. And all too often, those roles are given to cis actors anyway.
These trans celebrities are not just breaking boundaries, they’re creating desperately needed platforms, LGBTQ+ support systems, and personal inspiration for young trans people who might be struggling to live their truth more openly.
So let’s take a moment to celebrate the crucial strides these folks are making for the trans community and society as a whole. Shall we?
Laverne Cox rose to mega fame with her history-making role on Orange Is the New Black. In 2014, the actress and activist became the first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. She also reprised Tim Curry’s iconic role as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in 2016. for the live broadcast of The Rocky Horror Show.
Today, she continues working to expand representation for the trans community and Black people on screen.
The multitalented star has officially added “executive producer” to her repertoire. If you want to dive deep into the profound impact Hollywood’s had on the trans community and celebs, do yourself a favor and add the new Netflix documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen to your list right now.
Hunter Schafer told Variety, “There need to be more roles where trans people aren’t just dealing with being trans; they’re being trans while dealing with other issues.” She adds, “We’re so much more complex than just one identity.”
She’s been majorly doing her part on her groundbreaking Euphoria role, where she plays a trans teen. Her character on the HBO series, Jules, is open about who she is and struggles with things all teens struggle with–and then some. The series kaleidoscopically explores teen dilemmas from brutally honest and beautiful angles, and Schafer’s character gives a powerful voice to those often unheard.
And if you haven’t started Euphoria yet, seriously, you need to get on that!
Last year, the Juno star took to social media to tell the world his pronouns were he/him. While it sent shockwaves through Hollywood, the outpouring of support far outweighed any negativity directed toward Elliot.
“I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life,” he said.
He concludes his powerful post by saying, “To all trans people who deal with harassment, self-loathing, abuse, and the threat of violence every day: I see you, I love you and I will do everything I can to change this world for the better. Thank you for reading this. All my love, Elliot.”
MJ Rodriguez became the first trans person to receive an Emmy nomination for lead actress. The Pose star was recognized for her portrayal of trans character Blanca. Of the historic moment, Rodriguez told Deadline “I finally feel seen.”
Her message to trans artists with big dreams? “Never stop, keep going no matter what anyone says,” and above all else, “Keep your head held high.”
Earlier this month, Tommy Dorfman revealed she was transitioning in a deeply intimate interview with Time. The 13 Reasons Why star says not erasing her past and continuing to post on social media moving forward was a very important part of the process.
Dorfman told the publication she looks at her Instagram as “a diaristic time capsule” and eventually realized her “refusal to clarify stripped me of the freedom to control my own narrative.” And now, she feels most free.
You might recognize Zion Moreno from her starring role in HBO’s Gossip Girl reboot. She plays Luna, the first trans character to appear in the franchise.
Showrunner Joshua Safran told Variety her character’s identity is not a part of the plot right now. The focus is more about how Luna “became her authentic self,” adding “Luna is Luna and that’s that.”
Continuing to break through industry barriers, Moreno was recently on the cover of Vogue México looking absolutely stunning.
Josie told Time Magazine her transition “was not a choice that I made.” The Glee actress says she “always knew on some level” she was female. Growing up, Totah repeatedly told her mother she “wished” she was a girl.
In her essay for Time, Josie said watching her costars play female roles she could not was painful, but that feeling’s officially so yesterday.
“I’m going to gun for those roles, be it a transgender female or a cisgender female. Because it’s a clean slate — and a new world,” she says.
In May 2021, Zackery Torres came out as trans on Tiktok. The former Dance Moms star said she hoped to help other young people questioning their identity.
Of her decision to publicly come out, Torres told Seventeen, “I think about what I would have needed at age 12 and it’s someone saying it’s OK to not know who you are right now.”
“Even if there’s just one person out there who’s wondering or struggling and they watch the video or read this and it makes them feel better. That’s the goal,” she says.
Jazz’s 2015 docuseries I Am Jazz inspired countless young people to start their own transitions, including Josie Totah.
Jennings wrote an inspiring essay for Seventeen and said coming out to the whole world at 14 years old “wasn’t scary.”
“I’ve always known that I’m a girl, and talking about it felt easy—I was just telling my truth,” she proudly explained.