November 14 to 20 is Transgender Awareness Week
Transgender issues have been a part of the world conversation in recent years—and that didn’t happen by accident. The rise of trans activists and the popularity of ground-breaking shows like Amazon’s Transparent and TLC’s I Am Jazz helped push the conversation forward.
In honor of Transgender Awareness Week (November 14-20) and the Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20), we’re applauding the inspirational stars who have broken barriers and then some. Keep these trans women and men on your radar:
1. CHRIS MOSIERChris made history last year by being the first known transgender athlete to make the U.S. men’s national team when he qualified in the sprint duathlon (cycling and running). This year, he represented the U.S. at the Sprint Duathlon World Championship, where he placed 26th out 47 men in his age group.
“I am proud of this moment, not only for my own athletic career, but also for the sports equality movement as a whole,” he told Out Sports. “This opens the doors for other transgender athletes. I am excited that others can see this moment and know it is possible to continue to compete at a high level while being your authentic self.”
This summer, Chris also became the first transgender athlete to be featured in a Nike ad.
2. CAITLYN JENNERAfter months of candidness about her transition, Caitlyn made her “official” debut on the cover of Vanity Fair in June 2015. “If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, ‘You just blew your entire life,'” she said in the accompanying article.
After her debut, Caitlyn broke President Obama’s Twitter record by nabbing more than one million followers in four hours. Caitlyn also starred in the reality series, I Am Cait, which focused on transgender issues. She received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the 2015 ESPY Awards, making her the third consecutive LGBT person to receive the award after Michael Sam and Robin Roberts.
This year, she created a lipstick with MAC called “Finally Free.” The lipstick went on to earn $1.3 million, which was donated to transgender organizations in the U.S.
3. LAVERNE COXLaverne became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in the acting category for her role as Sophia Burset on Orange Is the New Black. Laverne regularly speaks and writes about transgender issues, and in 2014, she became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
Laverne is vocal about standing up for the rights of everyday transgender people. “I think there’s something shifting in terms of visibility and media representation,” she told the Telegraph in June. “But in terms of the day-to-day lives of trans people, we still experience violence at a disproportionate rate, as well as homelessness, unemployment, the denial of health care, and being criminalized and incarcerated.”
4. FALLON FOXFallon is the first openly transgender African American athlete in mixed martial arts history. Fallon revealed that she was transsexual in 2013 after a reporter planned to publish a story about her past without her consent. “These past six years, people have seen me as a woman, not a transsexual,” she told Out Sports. “People in the gym, people I train with, it’s been great, it’s been awesome. I’m just a woman to them. I don’t want that to go away. It’s unfortunate that it has to.” Fallon has repeatedly defended herself against critics who claim she has an unfair advantage in MMA, and even wrote an essay for SB Nation’s Bloody Elbow on the topic. “I’m a transgender woman,” she wrote. “I deserve equal treatment and respect to other types of women. I feel that all of this is so ridiculously unnecessary and horribly mean spirited.”
5. JAZZ JENNINGSJazz is only 16, but she’s already a YouTube star, spokesmodel, reality TV star, and one of the youngest publicly documented people to be identified as transgender. Jazz rose to fame in 2007 after appearing on 20/20 at 6 years old and carefully articulating about how she identifies as a girl. Jazz stars on the TLC reality show, I Am Jazz, which follows her life as a transgender teen, and she’s a co-founder of the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation with her parents. Jazz published a memoir this summer called Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen. Despite her fame, Jazz told The Advocate last year that she just wants to be known as an “average girl.” “If someone’s OK with being the ‘transgender girl,’ that’s fine, but that’s not me,” she says.