31 Trans* Women You Should Know (Besides Caitlyn Jenner & Laverne Cox)

Date posted: March 10, 2016

Hey everybody!  March is Women’s History Month and March 31st happens to be this years’ Transgender Day of Visibility, so what better way to celebrate than with a list.  There’s quite a few of these lists going around this month, and I’ll admit I definitely cribbed from a few of them, but these trans ladies are still worth checking out.  This is by no means a complete list of all the amazing trans/gender non-conforming ladies out there. So here we go…



1. Lili Elbe

Elbe was a Danish artist and illustrator and one of the first trans women to undergo gender confirmation surgery. Elbe met Gerda Gottlieb at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. They were married her in 1904. Elbe began dressing in women’s clothing after filling in for her wife’s absentee model.

In 1930, Elbe went to Germany to under gender confirmation surgery, which was still experimental at the time. Elbe had a series of operations over a period of 2 years. Her case became a sensation in both Germany and Denmark and a Danish court invalidated her marriage to Gottlieb.   She was able to get her sex and name legally changed.

Elbe began a relationship with French art dealer Claude Lejeune, with whom she wanted to marry and have children, and was looking forward to her final surgery involving a uterus transplant, so that they could one day have children.

With no medication to prevent organ rejection, she did not recover from her final operation and died September 13, 1931, three months after the surgery due to cardiac arrest caused by the rejection of the uterus by her immune system and the resulting infection. Elbe’s life is the subject of the 2015 Oscar nominated film “The Danish Girl”.


April Ashley

2. April Ashley

April Ashley is an English model and restaurant hostess. She is one of the earliest British people known to have gender confirmation surgery.

April Ashley joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 16. When she was in her twenties she moved to Paris and joined the drag cabaret at the Carousel Theatre where she met French entertainer Coccinelle. After having gender confirmation surgery on May 12, 1960 she returned to England and became a successful fashion model and appeared in a small role in the film The Road to Hong Kong with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

That November she met Arthur Corbett, the Eton-educated son and heir of Lord Rowallan. They were married in 1963, but the marriage quickly fell apart. In 1961 a friend sold her story to the Sunday People newspaper, which outted her and caused a scandal.   In 1967 Corbett filed to have their marriage annulled on the grounds that Ashley was male, even though Corbett knew about her history when they married.In 2005, after the passage of the Gender Recognition Act of 2004, Ashley was finally recognized as female and issues a new birth certificate. Ashley was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2012.



3.  Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson was a drag queen, sex worker and gay liberation activist. She was a veteran of the Stonewall Riots, and one of the first to fight back in clashes with the police. Along with Sylvia Rivera, she co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and was eventually an AIDS activist with ACT UP.



4. Sylvia Rae Rivera

Rivera was an American gay liberator and transgender activist and drag queen. She was a founding member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance. With her close friend Marsha P. Johnson, Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group dedicated to helping homeless young drag queens and trans women of color.



5. Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos is an Americn Composer and keyboardist best known her electronic music and film scores. Carlos help oversee the development of the Moog synthesizer, and help to popularize the instrument by recording an album of music by Johann Sebastian Bach called Switched-On Bach which won her three Grammy Awards. She also composed the scores for both, A Clockwork Orange and The Shining as well as Disney’s Tron.



6. Tracy Norman

Tracey “Africa” Norman was the first black trans fashion model, though she hid the secret of her gender identity as she rose through the industry in the 1970s. Norman was recruited for the Italian version of Vogue and quickly became a model, appearing in magazines and advertisements for such brands as Avon and Clairol. Norman said that she only went into modeling to avoid sex work, which she thought of as the only other outlet for a black trans woman from Newark, New Jersey, who had just begun taking hormones.

Around 1980, an assistant on an Essence magazine photo shoot who recognized her from Newark exposed her secret, and Norman stopped getting modeling work after that. She worked abroad in Paris and Milan before moving back to Newark, and only decided this year to tell her true story.



7. Kate Bornstein

Bornstein is a GNC (Gender Non-Conforming) American author, playwright, performance artist and gender theorist best known for her book “Gender Outlaw”, “My Gender Workbook” and “Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws”. In 2012, Bornstein released a biography entitled “Kate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger” with a documentary of the same titled directed by Sam Feder, released in 2014.



8. Sally Mursi

In 1988, Egyptian Sally Mursi sent a shockwave through the Muslim World when she changed her sex from male to female in Egypt. The case led to such a crisis in the country that the Grand Mufti was asked to decide on it. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, the Grand Mufti, released a fatwa, making it spiritually legal for a transgender individuals to change to his or her appropriate gender. At the time, Mursi was about to go into her fourth year as a medical student at Al-Azhar. The school rejected her, but the court sided with her twice when she sued them. She’s still fighting to return to Al-Azhar, although it’s now just about making a point, as she has moved on to being a dancer. Although she had been victorious, Mursi remains to face challenges in her country, crediting much of that to being the most recognized trans person.



9. Althea Garrison

A Massachusetts state legislator, and the first transgender person to be elected to a state legislature in the U.S. Garrison outed as trans just two days after her 1992 election. The outing came via a vicious Boston Herald reporter named Eric Fehrnstrom, who later became an aide and political strategist for Mitt Romney’s failed 2012 presidential bid. Fehrnstrom’s stories about Garrison sunk her political career.



10. Monica Roberts

As the founder and managing editor of TransGriot, a blog dedicated to reclaiming and documenting black trans history, Roberts—an award-winning writer, activist, lecturer, speaker, native Houstonian and out trans woman for more than 20 years—has currated some of the most groundbreaking (and heartbreaking) moments in black, trans and black trans history.



11. Jenn Burleton

Musician and trans activist Jenn Burleton made history when she performed on stage at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which had a ban on trans women from being “on the land”. You can read more about her here: (http://www.pqmonthly.com/hidden-in-plain-view-a-trans-activist-reflects-on-performing-at-michfest/15747)



12. Martine Rothblatt

Martine Rothblatt is a lawyer, author and entrepreneur. She also happens to be the highest paid female executive in the US, and for good reason. She was a leading proponent of satellite communications, as well as former CEO of the Geostar Corporation and founder of Sirius Satellite Radio.

In 1994, motivated by her daughter being diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension Rothblatt created the PPH Cure Foundation and founded the medical biotechnology company, United Theraputics.

In 2004, Rothblatt launched the Terasem Movement, which is focused on the prospect of technological immortality via mind uploading. In 2007 Rothblatt commissioned Hanson Robotics to create an artificial intelligence using her wife, Bina Aspen Rothblatt, as the template, resulting in the android BINA48.



13. The Wachowski Sisters

Okay, technically not one person, but come on, they’re awesome. Both Lilly and Lana are Hollywood directors/producers best known for film like the Matrix Trilogy, V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas and the Netflix series Sense8.

In 2012, Lana received the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award, saying, “There are some things we do for ourselves, but there are some things we do for others. I am here because when I was young, I wanted very badly to be a writer, I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I couldn’t find anyone like me in the world and it felt like my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others. If I can be that person for someone else, then the sacrifice of my private civic life may have value.”



14. Carys Massarella

Dr. Carys Massarella is likely the first transgender president of a hospital medical staff in the world, working at St. Joseph’s Healthcare hospital in Ontario, Canada. This pioneering health care physician works to educate the medical world on trans issues and the best patient care services for trans individuals.



15. Susan Stryker

Susan Stryker is an American professor, author, filmmaker, theorist and LGBTQ historian whose work focuses on gender and human sexuality. Stryker is the author of several books including Gay by the Bay: A History of Queer Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area, Transgender History, and Queer Pulp: Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback. Stryker is also the director of the film “Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria”, which documents the Gene Compton’s Cafeteria Riot of 1966.

Styker is also the co-editor of the Transgender Studies Quarterly, the first non-medical academic journal devoted to transgender issues. Her scholarly article “My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix” was the first article ever published in a peer-reviewed academic journal by and openly transgender author.



16. Kim Coco Iwamoto

In 2006 Iwamoto was elected to a position on Hawaii’s state Board of Education and became (at the time) the highest-elected openly transgender official in the United States. She ran for re-election in 2010 and won. See a video of Iwamoto discussing her support of an anti-bullying bill in Hawaii by clicking here.



17. Megan Stabler

Named as “Working Mother of the Year” by Working Mother magazine in 2014. Meghan Stabler is an accomplished business executive with extensive global expertise.

As a member of the Board of Directors for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a member of HRC’s Business Council focusing on LGBT workplace issues, policy and practices, Meghan is an inspirational speaker and a nationally recognized LGBT spokesperson, recently appearing on an ESPN documentary discussing sports and the LGBT community.

Meghan is actively sought by State legislators from Texas to New York for providing expert testimony on LGBT employment-, housing-, workplace-discrimination and relationship recognition.



18. Precious Davis

Chicago-based activist and advocate Precious Davis found her passion when she began working at the Center on Halsted a decade ago. “My work [at the center] pulled continuously from my heart and soul with passion each day to create programs, community outreach and events that had a tangible effect on LGBT youth because I believe in young people,” Davis said to the Windy City Times. She is currently assistant director of diversity-recruitment initiatives at her alma mater, Columbia College Chicago, and continues to use her public platform to highlight the challenges that LGBT youths face.



19. Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki is an Asian-American author known for her poetry collection Seasonal Velocities and her novel He Mele a Hilo. Seasonal Velocities was a finalist for the 25th Lambda Literary Awards in 2013. She was honored by the California State Senate for her work with Trans/Giving, a Los Angeles performance series for trans and gender queer individuals. Aoki teaches English at Santa Monica College and gender studies at Antioch University. She also holds a black belt in judo.



20. Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning is a United States Army soldier who was convicted in July 2013 of committing espionage and other offenses after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified or sensitive military and diplomatic documents.

Manning was assigned as an intelligence analyst in 2009. In 2010, she leaked classified information to Wikileaks, while confiding this fact to Adrian Lamo. Lamo informed Army Counterintelligence and Manning was arrested and charged with 22 offenses including aiding the enemy. She pled guilty to ten of the charges in February 2013. Manning was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years’ imprisonment with possibility of parole after eight years, and to be dishonorably discharged.

In regards to releasing the documents Manning told Amnesty International, “Humanity has never had this complete and detailed a record of what modern warfare actually looks like. Once you realize that the co-ordinates represent a real place where people live that the dates happened in our recent history; that the numbers are actually human lives – with all the love, hope, dreams, hatred, fear, and nightmares that come with them – then it’s difficult to ever forget how important these documents are.”



21. CeCe McDonald

Late one night in June 2011, CeCe McDonald and her friends were attacked by a man for simply walking down the street. In defending herself, and her friends, McDonald was sliced across her cheek and the man lost his life. This moment would change her life forever and McDonald found herself in the center of the struggles transgender women face in America’s prisons. After serving 41 months, McDonald was released from prison and has since been actively advocating for massive reform and abolition of the prison system.



22. Fallon Fox

Fallon Fox is the only out trans mixed martial arts fighter and the subject of the documentary Game Face. She has used her influence outside of the ring to bring attention to issues affecting trans youth, like ending conversion therapy.



23. Tona Brown

World renowned violinist Tona Brown made history by being the first trans person of color to perform at Carnegie Hall. In an interview with Out magazine, she said that she wanted her concert, “From Stonewall to Carnegie Hall,” to elevate the roles that transgender men and women played in the Stonewall riots in 1969.



24. Clair Farley

Clair Farley is a community leader, writer, and trans advocate. As the Director of Economic Development at the San Francisco LGBT Center, Clair works across the country and internationally to advocate for increased visibility of LGBT communities. Her story is highlighted in the incredible documentary “Red Without Blue”. In 2015, was recognized as a “Soldier of Social Change” in the SF Magazine’s Annual Women in Power Issue.



SANTA MONICA, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Actress Mya Taylor speaks onstage during the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards on February 27, 2016 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

25. Mya Taylor

Mya Taylor won best supporting actress for her breakout role in, Tangerine, at this year’s Independent Film Spirit Awards. This is the first time an openly transgender performer has won a major acting award. While accepting the award, Taylor expressed her gratitude for how much her life has changed over the past year. “I had come from almost nothing,” she said, “and then got this role in this movie and my life has just did a total 360.”



26. Julia Serano

Julia Serano is a writer, spoken-word performer, trans-bi activist and biologist from Oakland, CA. She is the author of “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” and “Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive”.   She is also a biologist at UC Berkeley in the field of evolution and developmental biology, as well as lyricist/guitarist for the band Bitesize.



27. Sadie Switchblade of G.L.O.S.S.

Sadie is the badass frontwoman of G.L.O.S.S. (Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit), a hardcore punk band out of Olympia, Washington. G.L.O.S.S. is crucial listening for punks who are hungry for music that vocalizes queer and trans experiences with brutal honesty Check out their bandcamp here: (https://girlslivingoutsidesocietysshit.bandcamp.com/releases)



28. Landa Lakes

Landa Lakes is a Native American two-spirit individual from the Chicasaw Tribal Community in Oklahoma, and an activist and drag performer. Regarding their self-chosen name, Landa said, “It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference for the famous butter mascot because I like to point out that even in today’s world we’re still using native people as mascots.”



29. Erin Campbell

Erin is “a ball busting career woman by day and podcaster extraordinaire by night”. She is the host and creator of the podcasts “The Deck Tease” and “The Girlfriend Bracket”.  She is the one of the most vocal personalities in the Magic the Gathering Community. She has also been featured in Gadgette Magazine.



30. Mey Rude

Mey is a lesbian Latina trans woman living in Idaho who is a writer, speaker and trans activist. She’s a Bruja Femme and co-founder of the Femme Witch Coven. She also happens to be the trans editor for Autostraddle.com.



31. Greta Gustava Martela

Greta Gustava Martela is the co-founder and Executive Director of Trans Lifeline (www.translifeline.org). Ms. Martela has drawn on her own experience with suicidality to create a resource that is able to respond to the needs of the trans community. Prior to Trans Lifeline Ms. Martela worked as a software engineer.

21 Responses to 31 Trans* Women You Should Know (Besides Caitlyn Jenner & Laverne Cox)
  1. Kristen says:

    The headline should be 31 Trans Women You Should Know besides Laverne Cox and instead of CJ.

  2. Dana Matthews says:

    Dr. Marci bowers should be added to this least especially in light of her advancements in restoring function to victims of female genital mutilation, and giving Trans men fully functional peni.

  3. Cool to have Sadie Switchblade of G.L.O.S.S. on the list but seriously, no Laura Jane Grace from “Against Me!” ?

    She even made a trans documentary for AOL, called “True Trans”. She’s the reason I started my transition. <3

    Yours truly,

    Fellow trans punk rocker Mette

  4. Jennifer Benson says:

    I would have liked to see Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders.
    A masterful writer & inspirational speaker.

  5. Brianna Emilija Grażyna says:

    And again Kristin Beck has been left out. WHY?!?!

    • tlp says:

      It’s by no means a complete list of amazing trans ladies. I chose 31 to celebrate the 31 days of women’s history month. All these women are incredible.

  6. Heather Lewis says:

    How can you leave out Lynn Conway??


  7. Page says:

    A good list! One issue on Sally Mursi, “transgendered” should just be “transgender.” Other than that my only suggestion for an addition would be Jaiyah Saelua.

  8. Luke Allen says:

    How about developing a list of Trans Guys!

  9. Annecdotist says:

    Interesting list – from across the pond can I add a shout for Rebecca Root

  10. super8motel says:

    Calling it gender confirmation surgery implies that their feminine gender wasn’t already confirmed. They were just as much girls before they got their penises inverted. Let’s not make trans women who don’t want genital surgery feel like they should get it.

  11. Lenore says:

    If you ever extend the list, Isabella ‘Bunny’ Bennett of Steam Powered Giraffe is also a lovely transgender lady, and a huge inspiration to me. c:

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