Search form

Scroll To Top

10 Transgender People Shattering Entertainment's Glass Ceiling


Expanding the reach of the transgender community in Hollywood

With the success of Orange Is The New Black, Laverne Cox's name is suddenly on everyone's lips. And rightfully so. Her portrayal of a trans woman prisoner, Sophia Burset, showcases a lot depth rarely seen in transgender characters on television. In fact, her character (in addition to Unique, the character played by biological male Alex Newell on Glee) may be the first time many viewers have seen a transgender person on TV or seen their characters portrayed with such complexity and truth. It's probably why BuzzFeed proclaimed she "broke the trans glass ceiling." Yet, she's not alone in her success. Cox may have shattered the ceiling, but these nine other entertainers splintered the glass before her. Together, they are all helping Hollywood showcase a positive, insightful look at the transgender community.


Buck Angel, Adult Film Star

Angel first came to prominence as an adult filmmaker. He parlayed that success into expanding acceptance for trans men. Last year, Angel created a dating website for trans men, He also produced and appeared in the educational documentary, Sexing the Transman, and was the subject of the film, Mr. Angel, which took a closer look at his life as an entertainer.


Chaz Bono, Advocate/Writer

In 2008, it was confirmed by Bono's publicist that he was transitioning. The news caused a media frenzy that put a lot of attention on Bono's personal transformation. Bono eventually turned his story into the documentary, Becoming Chaz, which premiered at Sundance in 2011 and later debuted on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Bono has also written several books depicting his life as a gay woman and a trans man.

Carmen Carrera, 'RuPaul's Drag Race'

Carmen Carrera, Reality Star/Burlesque Performer

Each season, it's always dramatically revealed that one contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race is a transgender woman. Since appearing on the show, Carrera has become something of a fashion icon thanks to several spreads in W magazine. Her most recent shoot, was revealing look of Carrera as a burlesque performer, which she does alongside her drag performances - making room for women in drag.


Candis Cayne, Actress

Before Cox, there was Cayne, who portrayed the first recurring transgender character in prime time. Her role on Dirty Sexy Money saw her romancing New York Attorney General Patrick Darling played by William Baldwin. The character was one the first positive portrayals of transgender people on television.


Jamie Clayton, Actress

Clayton first moved to New York City to be a makeup artist, which eventually led her to co-hosting gig on the VH1 reality series, TRANSform Me, with Laverne Cox. She followed up that show with a role as a trans woman on HBO's Hung and a starring role on the Emmy Award winning webseries, Dirty Work.


Laverne Cox, Actress

While OITNB is Cox's most prominent role, she's been on television for half a decade. In 2010, she hosted TRANSform Me, which provided women with personal and physical makeovers. During that show, Cox became the first African-American trans woman to produce and star in her own series.


Isis King, Designer/Model

King, one of 2012's Out 100, was first seen as a contestant on America's Next Top Model. Following the show, she modeled for Seventeen, Swerv and became American Apparel's first transgender model. She furthered her presence in the fashion world with her own line and even dipped her toes into the acting world with a role in Hello Forever.


Harmony Santana, Actress

Santana is an actress most notable for her role in Gun Hill Road. The film earned her critical acclaim and a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards. Santana became the first out trans actor (depicting a trans person) to be nominated for a major award.


Lea T, Model

Lea T has been turning heads in the fashion business since 2010 when she became the face of Givenchy. Since then, she has been featured in Vogue Paris, Interview and Cover and photographed by the likes of Terry Richardson. Most recently she starred in the ad campaign for UCB (United Colors of Benetton).


Lana Wachowski, Director/Producer

As one of the Wachowski siblings, Lana is one of the most powerful voices in Hollywood. Her and her brother not only wrote, directed and produced The Matrix, but were also behind V for Vendetta and Cloud Atlas. Their next project is the upcoming original NetFlix series, Sense8. While her transition was always a source of rumors in Hollywood, she made her first public appearance when promoting Cloud Atlas and was later recognized by the Human Rights Campaign.


[Photos: Out, Getty, Terry Richardson]

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Stacy Lambe