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2014: A Turning Point for the Trans Community

Alexandra Billings
Courtesy Emily Shur

Actress Alexandra Billings on how trans people are leaving the margins & entering our living rooms.

For 25 years, OUT has celebrated queer culture. To mark our silver jubilee, we look back at some of the biggest, brightest moments of the past 9,131 days.

After decades of living in the shadows, the transgender community finally began to see true cultural recognition in 2014. That year, Laverne Cox made history as the first trans actor to be nominated for an Emmy (for Orange Is the New Black), and, months later, the world was introduced to Transparent, Jill Soloway's Amazon series--and eventual smash hit--about the Pfeffermans, a family with a transgender matriarch named Maura (Jeffrey Tambor).

Collectively, these very public events would be a beacon of hope for trans people. For Alexandra Billings, who plays Davina, Maura's trans best friend on the show, it cemented a lengthy career as an openly transgender actress.

Related | How Alexandra Billings & Trace Lysette Took Charge in Transparent's Writing Room

"I think what's resonating with the show's viewers is the sense of family," Billings says. "It's a very fractured, complicated, chaotic, hilarious, insane group of humans who are just thrown together in this pot and I think that's true of all of us. For the longest time, and still to this day, the trans community has been full of chosen families. Most of the time, our genetic family shuns us, shames us, or kicks us out the door."

Today, with transgender rights having become part of the national discussion, and trans characters having found at least some high-profile homes in TV series and movies, Billings, 55, is optimistic. "I transitioned in 1980 when it was not only unheard of, but illegal," she says. "Now, in many parts of the country, the trans experience is celebrated and linked to a community."

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