Thanks to high-profile transitions such as Caitlyn Jenner’s, the world has become more aware of the experiences of those who identify as transgender — but there’s still a long way to go. Violence against trans people stills runs rampant throughout the U.S., and according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a staggering 41 percent of trans folks in the U.S. will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Hopefully, then, these boundary-breaking celebrities will help make the path to happiness smoother for those who follow in their footsteps.
In 2007 Candis Cayne became a pioneer. As Carmelita on the ABC show Dirty Sexy Money, she became the first trans actress to play a trans character in a recurring role on primetime TV. More recently, Cayne’s been seen on Caitlyn Jenner’s E! reality show I Am Cait and in Grey’s Anatomy. In 2015 she also became a global creative director of the LGBT social networking app MOOVZ.
Model and designer Isis King has described herself as “born in the wrong body” rather than “transgender.” That same phrase is also the title of the 2007 MSNBC documentary that helped moved her towards the mainstream. And King has been breaking boundaries ever since. She’s become the first trans woman contestant on America’s Next Top Model — a move that both kickstarted her career and made trans people more visible on national TV.
Although Jazz Jennings was assigned male at birth, she was adamant that she was a girl from a very young age. Now, she’s grown up to be one of the youngest but most influential transgender activists in the world. Jennings even clinched her own reality show, I Am Jazz, on TLC in 2015.
Fallon Fox is the first transgender MMA fighter in history — an achievement that unfortunately has seen her draw transphobic flack from some people. Fellow MMA star Matt Mitrione called her a “disgusting freak” in 2013. Countless other people in and out of the sport have also weighed in on her muscle strength and other personal parts of her identity. But Fox has continued to kick butt and take names like a pro, with a near-flawless fight record under her belt and to her credit.