Trans Women Making a Difference

Unveiling the Power of Trans Visibility: Why Recognizing Trans Women's Contributions Matters

Transgender women have long been overlooked, underappreciated and discriminated against across all spheres of society.

Despite facing immense challenges, trans women have made remarkable strides as activists, advocates, educators, artists, policy makers and community builders.

Their courage in living authentically and dismantling oppressive systems has paved the way for greater awareness, empathy and progress towards equality.


Elevating the stories of trailblazing trans women changes public perceptions and brings to light the incredible resilience, wisdom and talents this community holds.

Their unique perspectives shed light on intersecting forms of injustice and redefine traditional notions of leadership, strength and purpose.

Appreciating their accomplishments not only honors their humanity but inspires social cohesion, political will and policy changes to better the lives of trans people everywhere.


From Marginalization to Movers and Shakers: A Glimpse into the Diverse World of Trans Advocacy

Trans women have transformed from one of society’s most marginalized groups to a powerful force advocating for justice.

Despite vulnerability to violence, discrimination and lack of opportunity, trans women have emerged as leaders across politics, law, arts and culture.

Their activism was born out of necessity in a world still struggling to embrace gender diversity.


Rather than remain invisible, trans women have raised their voices in solidarity to increase protections, resources and support systems for their community.

They’ve built roads in areas that were previously exclusionary or downright hostile towards them.

Their resilience and vision now fuels momentum towards a more equitable future for all transgender people.

This next section highlights some of the trans women making revolutionary change at the frontlines of advocacy.


Part 1: Changemakers on the Frontlines

Political Pioneers: Blazing Trails in Policy and Legislation

Trans women have shattered glass ceilings in the political arena, securing seats at tables where their perspectives were once unheard and attaining positions providing platforms to create tangible change.

Their election to office and appointments to advisory roles break new ground in inclusion and bring a sense of hope during polarizing times.

Here are some of the trans women political firsts and champions paving the way for a more just and representative governance.


Danica Roem - The First Trans State Legislator in the US

Danica Roem is an American politician and journalist who made history as the first openly transgender person to be elected and serve in a U.S. state legislature.

She has been serving in the Virginia Senate since 2024, representing the 30th district.

Prior to her role in the Senate, she served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, representing the 13th district.


Roem, a Democrat, is known for her advocacy and commitment to public service. She has been a vocal supporter of LGBTQ+ rights and has been a trailblazer for the transgender community in the political arena.

Her election to the Virginia House of Delegates in 2017 and subsequently to the State Senate in 2023 marked significant milestones for LGBTQ+ representation in government.


Roem's political career is characterized by her dedication to her constituents and her efforts to address issues that impact the community.

She has also been an advocate for transgender rights, including her support for transgender student-athletes.

Her victories in the elections have been celebrated as groundbreaking and have been seen as a significant step forward for LGBTQ+ representation in politics.


In addition to her political career, Roem is also a published author, with her book "Burn the Page" being released by Viking Books.

She is an alumna of the St. Bonaventure University's Journalism School and has a background in journalism, having worked as a reporter for the Gainesville Times in Prince William County.


Roem's journey and achievements have inspired many and have contributed to the ongoing progress towards greater diversity and inclusion in politics.

Her resilience in the face of adversity and her commitment to public service have made her a respected figure both within and outside of Virginia.


Tamika Mallory - Co-founder of the Women’s March, Advocate for Intersectionality

A nationally recognized social justice organizer, Tamika Mallory’s activism fuels campaigns promoting the rights and advancement of marginalized communities.

She strives to build an inclusive feminist movement recognizing that gender justice cannot be achieved without racial justice, LGBTQ equality, worker’s rights and freedom from state violence.

Tamika Mallory Is not a trans person but her impact gave her the honor to be on the list.


As co-president of the Women’s March network and March On organization, Mallory demonstrates that proudly trans women belong at the forefront of feminist organizing.

She insists that confronting transphobia and trans exclusion remains essential to protecting the rights of all women.

Her speeches, writing and interviews continually emphasize the importance of embracing an intersectional feminist vision.


Laverne Cox - Transgender Actress and LGBTQ+ Rights Champion

Laverne Cox is an American actress, producer, and equal rights advocate. She was born on May 29, 1972, in Mobile, Alabama, and is known for her advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community.

Cox is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy and has been a prominent figure in promoting visibility and awareness for the transgender community.


Cox rose to prominence with her role as Sophia Burset in the Netflix series "Orange is The New Black," which earned her critical acclaim and a Primetime Emmy nomination.

She has also appeared in other TV shows and movies, including "Doubt," "The Mindy Project," and "Disclosure."


In addition to her acting career, Cox is a prominent advocate for the LGBTQ+ community.

She has been recognized for her work as an advocate, including being named one of Glamour magazine's 2014 Women of the Year.

Cox is also the first openly transgender person to appear on the covers of TIME Magazine, Cosmopolitan magazine, and Essence magazines, among others.


Cox has been vocal about her experiences as a transgender woman and has used her platform to raise awareness about the issues faced by the transgender community.

She has been a speaker at various events and has been involved in several initiatives aimed at promoting equality and inclusivity.


Overall, Laverne Cox is a trailblazer for the transgender community and has made significant contributions to the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights and visibility.

Her advocacy work and her achievements in the entertainment industry have made her a respected figure and an inspiration to many.


Advocates for Justice: Fighting Discrimination and Challenging Inequality

Trans women have been on the frontlines confronting injustice for decades with radical acts of resistance.

Though many have been pushed to society's margins, their bold activism during the gay liberation and women’s rights movements of the 1960s and 70s provided momentum and visibility for the ongoing fight against transphobia today.

They protested police brutality, organized rallies after Stonewall and delivered fiery speeches for trans and queer acceptance when it was still dangerous to live openly.

Here are some of the influential trans women who catalyzed a movement for trans rights and liberation. 


Marsha P. Johnson – A Stonewall Warrior and Trans Rights Icon


Marsha P. Johnson (August 24, 1945 – July 6, 1992) was an American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen.

She was a central figure in the LGBTQ+ rights movement and a prominent advocate for transgender and homeless youth.

Johnson was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and moved to New York City after graduating high school.

She became known for her activism and involvement in the Stonewall Uprising, a pivotal event in the gay liberation movement.


Throughout her life, Johnson was a vocal advocate for the rights of marginalized communities, including homeless LGBTQ+ youth and those affected by HIV and AIDS.

She co-founded the Gay Liberation Front and the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization that provided support and resources for transgender and homeless individuals.


Marsha P. Johnson's activism and advocacy made her one of the most recognized and admired LGBTQ+ advocates of her time.

Her contributions to the fight for gay and transgender rights were significant, and she remains an iconic figure in the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement.


Johnson's life and legacy have been the subject of numerous documentaries and tributes, and her impact on the fight for equality and justice continues to be celebrated.

In her honor, a New York State waterfront park in Brooklyn was named after her, and the Marsha P. Johnson Institute was established to advocate for the rights of Black transgender people.


Marsha P. Johnson's historic role in the LGBTQ+ rights movement and her unwavering dedication to advocacy have left a lasting impact on the fight for equality and social justice.


Miss Major Griffin-Gracy – Championing Trans Elders and Challenging Incarceration. 

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (born 1940s) is an American author, activist, and community organizer for transgender rights.

Born in Chicago, she is often referred to as Miss Major and has spent more than 40 years advocating for the marginalized, whether in prisons or on the streets.

Some key aspects of her life and work include:


  • Early life: Miss Major grew up with her parents and her sister, Cookie. She added her mother's maiden name, Griffin, as a tribute to her. She uses Miss Major as her first name.


  • Gender identity: Miss Major was assigned male at birth but always felt more like a female. Her parents thought it was just a phase, but she gradually came to understand her gender identity.


  • Activism: Miss Major has been a central figure in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, particularly for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. She has been a vocal advocate for the rights of transgender and homeless youth, as well as those affected by HIV and AIDS.


  • Organizations: Miss Major has been involved in various organizations throughout her career, including the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), where she joined in 2005.


  • Documentary: A feature-length documentary, "MAJOR!", chronicles Miss Major's life and the positive influence she has had on the lives of her friends and confidants.


  • Book: In May 2023, Verso Books published "Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Black Trans Revolutionary," a memoir composed of interviews with Griffin-Gracy by journalist Toshio Meronek.


Miss Major's contributions to the fight for transgender rights and her dedication to advocacy have made her a respected figure and an inspiration to many.

Her work has helped shape the modern trans rights movement and has left a lasting impact on the fight for equality and social justice.


Sylvia Rivera – A Radical Voice for Trans Women of Color and Housing Rights

Sylvia Rivera was an American activist and community worker who was a central figure in the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

She was born in New York City in 1951 to a father from Puerto Rico and a mother from Venezuela.

She was assigned male at birth but always felt more like a female.

Throughout her life, she fought against the exclusion of transgender people, especially transgender people of color, from the larger movement for gay rights.


Rivera was a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising, a pivotal event in the gay liberation movement.

She co-founded the Gay Liberation Front and the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization that provided support and resources for transgender and homeless individuals.

Rivera was a tireless advocate for all those who have been marginalized as the “gay rights” movement, and was a loud and persistent voice for the rights of people of color and low-income queers.


Rivera's activism and advocacy made her one of the most recognized and admired LGBTQ+ advocates of her time.

Her contributions to the fight for gay and transgender rights were significant, and she remains an iconic figure in the history of the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

Rivera died of liver cancer in St. Vincent’s Manhattan Hospital in 2002 at the age of 50. Her partner, Julia Murray, was with her at the time of her death.


The Sylvia Rivera Law Project continues her legacy, working to guarantee “all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence.”

The intersection of Christopher and Hudson streets in Greenwich Village, two blocks from The Stonewall Inn, was renamed Sylvia Rivera Way in her honor.


Community Builders: Bridging Gaps and Fostering Support Networks

Beyond public policy advocacy, trans women have built critical support systems and networks empowering individuals to embrace their authentic selves.

They’ve fostered connections between peers for learning and growth, created access to gender-affirming medical resources, published media elevating trans stories, staffed suicide hotlines preventing community loss and invested in the next generation of leaders.

Here are a few influential trans women strengthening communities through outreach, mentorship and life-saving services. 


Ashlee Marie Preston – Founder of Trans Lifeline, a Peer Support Network for Trans People

Ashlee Marie Preston is an American media personality, journalist, and activist.

She was born on June 7, 1984, in Louisville, Kentucky, and is known for her advocacy for transgender rights and social justice.

Preston is the first openly transgender woman to become editor-in-chief of a national publication, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and the first openly trans person to run for state office in California.


Preston has been involved in various social justice initiatives and has held several leadership positions.

She has been a vocal advocate for the rights of marginalized communities, including transgender and gender nonconforming individuals, people of color, and low-income queers.

She is the founder of "You Are Essential," an initiative that funds grassroots organizations.


Preston has been recognized for her work as an advocate, including being named one of The Root's 100 most influential African-Americans in 2017.

She has also contributed her writing to outlets such as Teen Vogue and Vice.

Preston is the host of the podcast REVRY Studio's SHOOK with Ashlee Marie Preston, which covers topics related to discrimination.


Overall, Ashlee Marie Preston is a trailblazer for the transgender community and has made significant contributions to the advancement of LGBTQ+ rights and visibility.

Her advocacy work and her achievements in the media industry have made her a respected figure and an inspiration to many.


Tiq Milan – A Trans Writer and Public Speaker, Building Community Through Storytelling 

Writer, media personality and strategic consultant Tiq Milan utilizes his public platform to increase understanding, acceptance and pride around trans experiences.

Both in front of audiences and through memoir Grounded in the Body, Milan aims to foster gender liberation and self-love by revealing the challenges, joys and possibilities of his own personal journey.


As a former Senior Media Strategist at GLAAD, Milan also crusaded for more multi-dimensional trans male characters in TV and film.

He continues to speak internationally while serving on Lambda Legal’s national




Part 2: Beyond the Spotlight: Everyday Heroes Making a Difference


Educators and Mentors: Shaping the Future with Knowledge and Understanding

Trans women have moved from classrooms to podiums, using their expertise to advance inclusion and confront ignorance in educational spaces.

Their scholarship reexamines history, literature and society through a transgender lens.

Their tools for change are just as likely to be textbooks as megaphones, enlightening students and galvanizing crowds to challenge the status quo.


Janet Mock - A Trans Journalist and Educator, Challenging Misconceptions and Promoting Inclusivity

Prominent trans writer, director and advocate Janet Mock leverages her experience as a former educator to empower marginalized communities.

Whether discussing representations in media through her New York Times column or urging advocacy across college campuses, Mock aims to build a more progressive, understanding society. 


She served as a trusted advisor on FX series Pose, ensuring authentic depictions of ballroom culture and HIV/AIDS crisis-era New York.

Through memoirs, spearheading the #GirlsLikeUs social media project and co-founding the Trans Justice Funding Project, Mock bolsters trans women of color to become change-makers in their own right. 


Chase Joynt - A Trans Scholar and Writer, Redefining Trans Narratives in Academia 

Combining creative talent and academic rigor, Chase Joynt explores the richness of trans histories often overlooked by mainstream institutions through an artistic lens.

As a filmmaker and writer, Joynt’s works land at the intersection of knowledge production, community empowerment and progressive cultural change. 


His performances, lectures and award-winning multipart series "You Only Live Twice" have uniquely guided universities and museums to expand limited definitions of transgender representation.

Carving out space for trans authors within critical theory and LGBTQ+ cultural analysis furthers the preservation of experiences long made invisible. 


Imani Rupert-Gordon - A Trans Educator and Advocate, Building Inclusive School Environments

Bringing two decades of expertise promoting safe, affirming environments for LGBTQ+ youth, Imani Rupert-Gordon serves as the National Center for Lesbian Rights Director of Out of School Time Programs.

She has led workshops helping educators navigate gender diversity, developed recommendations enhancing school inclusion and enabled districts to implement trans-supportive policies.


Rupert-Gordon also oversees programming like Camp OUTdoors building self-confidence for queer and trans middle school students to develop into future trailblazers themselves.

Her work ensures the next generation of leaders grows up nourished by knowledge and community. 


Artists and Creatives: Amplifying Voices and Challenging Stereotypes Through Art 

Trans artists across mediums like film, television, music and visual arts are exposing new audiences to the complexity, struggle and joy within trans experiences.

Their creative talents present fresh narratives combatting harmful assumptions, bring depth to discussions of gender and raise the profile of trans creators. 


Dorian Electra - A Trans Pop Musician and Activist, Using Music to Dismantle Gender Norms

Los Angeles-based pop performer Dorian Electra uses theatricality, humor and stylistic fusion to deliver catchy bangers spreading their message of gender fluidity.

Redefining the aesthetics of bubblegum pop, Electra’s vivacious music videos, public appearances and social media engagement urge society to progress beyond the gender binary. 


Lines are further crossed through collaborations with artists like Pussy Riot and Village People aiming to spark more dialogue around embracing identity.

For many fans, playful tracks like "Man to Man" and "Guyliner" mark first introductions to explicitly trans-centric art encouraging self-acceptance. 


Laverne Cox and Janet Mock - Founders of "Disclosure," a Documentary Challenging Trans Representation in Media


Trailblazing actress Laverne Cox partnered with prominent author and trans rights activist Janet Mock to executive produce thought-provoking 2020 documentary Disclosure.

This film traces damaging, incorrect and exploitative depictions of trans people throughout Hollywood history while advocating for increased opportunities for trans performers, writers and producers moving forward. 


Centering honest discussion around performing gender, Disclosure has quickly become essential viewing for entertainment industry professionals striving for more conscious, authentic casting and storytelling.

The film remains a reference point sparking critical reflection regarding embodying characters across or outside gender identity.  


Zackary Drucker - A Trans Photographer and Filmmaker, Documenting the Trans Experience with Authenticity 

Groundbreaking photographer, filmmaker and performance artist Zackary Drucker has trailblazed visual documentation and narrative-based storytelling illuminating real trans lives.

Drucker’s memoiristic artwork intimately captures her own transition alongside the journey of girlfriend and art collaborator Rhys Ernst across meticulously compiled photos, videos and journals. 


Her photography has been featured everywhere from the 2014 Whitney Biennial to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Drucker also works as a producer on Amazon’s transitional series Transparent while building creative opportunities for trans creators through initiatives like Reframe.

Capturing trans humanity beyond struggle aids empowerment and self-reflection. 




The Ripple Effect: Recognizing the Impact of Trans Women on a Global Scale 

The incredible progress in visibility, legal rights and societal attitudes towards trans people over recent years did not occur in isolation.

It stands squarely upon the shoulders of courageous trans women who came before blazing trails as pioneers in politics, culture and community building. 


The stories and accomplishments of trans women leaders covered in this piece represent a fraction of the changemakers who fueled a movement once deemed impossible.

Their collective influence extends from representation in the hall of government to intimate questions of self-understanding by trans youth still finding their courage. Their ripples have touched countless shores.  


Moving Forward: Celebrating Achievements and Continuing the Fight for Equality  

The election of trans officials, breakthroughs in media representation and strengthening of advocacy networks illustrate demonstrable gains in transgender equality thanks to audacious trans women leading the way.

The blueprint they co-authored channels hopes for bolder access, protections and belonging. 


And yet their job remains unfinished. 2021 became the deadliest year on record for trans Americans with a disproportionate number of Black trans women murdered nationwide.

LGBTQ youth still face hostility in schools, bullying without refuge and barriers to gender-affirming healthcare from unsupportive households.

For trans people navigating disabilities, unemployment, unhoused status and immigration hurdles, basic needs and physical safety remain unmet at every turn. 


Honoring change making trans women means celebrating how far they’ve brought us while taking up their torch against injustice wherever it rages on. 


Resources and Action Steps: How You Can Support the Work of Trans Activists and Advocates 

  • Donate funds to trans-led organizations like GLAAD, Transgender Law Center or local non-profits making change in your community
  • Support and amplify trans voices on social media
  • Volunteer with trans support networks like the Trans Lifeline crisis hotline
  • Contact your governmental representatives urging them to pass laws banning transgender discrimination
  • Speak up against transphobia when witnessed in personal situations
  • Seek out media - films, shows, books - created by trans women storytellers
  • Participate in community events such as Trans Day of Visibility bringing awareness to ongoing issues
  • Engage employers and organizations on establishing inclusive policies for staff and service recipients
  • Challenge outdated assumptions about gender diversity through personal education
  • Provide physical safe spaces open to trans community gathering and organizing
  • Donate professional skills pro-bono to assist advocacy groups making systemic change
  • Check in personally on trans loved ones demonstrating allyship and solidarity


The empowerment of trans women strengthens humanity across all identities. Each small act of listening, embracing and uplifting moves us towards a more equitable society for trans people to fully participate in — a world their bold vision has already charted course towards.

Through compassionate solidarity, we all become inheritors and champions of their legacy, writing the next proud chapters hand-in-hand.