When we talk about trans people, two names that almost always come up are Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, who have become standard-bearers for the trans community.
But black trans excellence doesn’t begin and end with these two amazing women. There are many more black leaders who have revolutionized the movement for trans rights.
1. Marsha P. Johnson
Considered by many to be one of the founders of the modern LGBT movement in the U.S., Johnson was one of the first people to fight back against the police during the Stonewall Riots. She died in 1992, but her legacy lives on. She is the subject of the documentary Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson, and inspired the upcoming short film Happy Birthday, Marsha.
2. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy
Another Stonewall veteran, Miss Major has continued to engage in vital activism on behalf of the LGBT community. She was an AIDS advocate in the 80’s and 90’s and more recently was executive director of the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), which supports transgender women affected by incarceration and police violence. She is also the subject of the upcoming documentary, Major!
5. Tiq Milan
A writer, speaker, and activist on behalf of the trans community for over a decade, Milan is a national spokesperson for GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), where he previously served as senior media strategist.
7. Elle Hearns
Hearns is a trans woman activist who is a strategic partner of the Black Lives Matter movement, and appeared on CNN last August to talk about the group’s interactions with Hillary Clinton. She was also one of the key organizers of a National Day of Action on behalf of trans women of color who have been victims of violence.
8. Tyler Ford
Showing that trans people are not simply men or women, Ford has been leading the way towards awareness for non-binary and agender people through their writing and public advocacy.
9. CeCe McDonald
McDonald came to national prominence when she spent 41 months in prison for manslaughter after stabbing a man while she was being assaulted because of her trans status. She has spoken out publicly about her experience since her release in 2014, and is the subject of the upcoming Laverne Cox-produced documentary, Free CECE.
10. J Mase III
A poet and educator, Mase has worked with thousands of community members in the US and abroad on the needs of LGBTQIA youth and adults in educational spaces. He recently founded awQward, the first talent agency specifically for trans and queer people of color.
11. Precious Davis and Myles Brady
This power trans couple who both work professionally in diversity and outreach has recently gained national attention by being part of Miley Cyrus’ #Instapride campaign, which led to Davis being featured in the TLC show Say Yes to the Dress. Due to be married this summer, their visibility demonstrates the possibility and beauty of trans people loving each other.
12. Monica Jones
After protesting against a vague Arizona law that allows police to arrest people for “manifesting prostitution,” Jones was arrested in 2013 under the same law and sentenced to a month in prison, a conviction that was eventually voided. She continues to advocate on behalf of sex workers and against police profiling and arrest of transgender women of color, known in the trans community as “walking while trans.”
13. Cherno Biko
Actress, speaker, and advocate Cherno Biko is a frequent guest of the Melissa Harris-Perry Show and Janet Mock’s So Popular!. She is currently co-chair of New York City’s Young Women’s Advisory Council.
14. Reina Gossett
A filmmaker who co-directs the upcoming short Happy Birthday, Marsha, inspired by the life of Marsha P. Johnson, Gossett is currently activist-in-residence at Barnard College’s Center for Research on Women. Before then, she served as membership director of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a New York City legal organization that works on behalf of low-income people and people of color.
16. Angelica Ross
Ross has recently come into the spotlight as one of the stars of the web series Her Story, a role that has garnered her widespread acclaim. But she is also the founding CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, a nonprofit that provides training and employment for transgender people.
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