1. Laverne Cox
Time Magazine named Cox’s character on “Orange is the New Black,” Sophia Burset, “the most dynamic transgender character in TV history.” “Orange” is easily the biggest hit show on the internet this year, and Cox is quite the favorite. What did she do with her newfound fame? Advocate for the trans community.
On her documentary project currently in production, Free CeCe, about a trans woman currently serving time in a men’s prison on questionable charges, she told Persephone Magazine, “trans women, particularly trans women of color, experience disproportionate amounts of violence…I wanted to do a piece that explores the nature of how race, class and gender affect violence towards trans women and also give CeCe a space to tell her story in her words in the context of a piece that truly values the lives of trans women of color.”
2. Janet Mock
Janet Mock rose to fame in 2011, when a feature about her transition into womanhood was published in Marie Claire. Since then, she has used her sharp writing skills and powerful presence to advocate for trans visibility, launching the #Girlslikeus movement in 2012 to encourage trans women’s voices.
Recently named one of OUT Magazine’s OUT 100, Mock has also recently starred alongside Ellen DeGeneres and Wanda Sykes in HBO’s The Out List. As a media insider, Mock writes about the importance of diversifying the LGBT issues in the media in order to serve the wider queer community. “When the LGBT issues come into mainstream they’re usually always about marriage and even immigration issues become about tying to families and marriage,” Mock said to PQ Monthly. “So, what do you do for young trans LGBT queer people of color who are not in relationships?”
3. Chelsea Manning
After making headlines as Bradley Manning, becoming America’s most notorious whistleblower for sharing classified information with the online watchdog community WikiLeaks, Chelsea again made front page news with her simple declaration, “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female.”
Her transition process challenged traditional media news outlets’ coverage of her story, forcing many in the media to learn how to appropriately address transgender people in their news stories. Prominent news agencies such as the Associated Press, the New York Times, and National Public Radio all issued editor’s notes explaining how they would respect Chelsea’s preferred gender pronoun in their reporting. As GLAAD notes, the AP Stylebook says that reporters and news articles should “use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who…present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.”
Chelsea’s next fight? Medical support for her transition while serving time in military prison.
4. Carmen Carrera
Carmen Carrera wants to be the next Angel for Victoria’s Secret. After starring in the third season of RuPaul’s “Drag Race” in 2011, Carrera came out as a transgender woman on ABC’s “What Would You Do?” highlighting the discrimination and bullying faced by the transgender community.
“Trans women are a part of the female population and I think that they deserve a respectful representation,” Carrera told CNN. “It would be pretty amazing for Victoria’s Secret to be that huge corporation that embraces trans women. We shop there as well. I can only hope and dream, but I think it’s time.” While Victoria’s Secret has yet to comment on Carrera’s hope, the petition to make her an Angel has received more than 44,000 votes.
5. Mia McKenzie
Mia McKenzie is the creator of Black Girl Dangerous, a website dedicated to amplifying the voice of the queer and trans people of color community. Her novel, The Summer We Got Free, was the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Award for debut fiction.
On her inspiration to create BGD, McKenzie told ELIXHER, “As Black women, we are always so cognizant of people’s perceptions of us, and always having to modify ourselves—our tones of voice, the language we use—to make other people feel less threatened by us…I got tired of being expected to do that. I decided that I would, instead, embrace my own dangerousness—remake it and reshape it and retell it—and use it as a tool of self-expression.”