It’s 2019 and transgender visibility in the US is at an all-time high in politics, media and sports.
Historic “firsts” are significant markers of the country’s progress toward trans equality, said Alex Schmider, GLAAD’s associate director of transgender representation.
Only 16% of Americans said they personally know a trans person, GLAAD reported in 2015. That means most US adults learn about trans people when they see them in films, in political office, and on magazine covers, he said.
“We know trans people have been around for centuries, in all different cultures and in all different communities. It’s only now that we’re starting to be represented in mainstream media,” Schmider told CNN. “The hope and goal for representation is for stories to reflect and represent the culture with which we live.”
Earlier this year, transgender people were banned from joining the military as new recruits unless they’re willing to serve as the sex they were assigned at birth. Violence against trans people, particularly black trans women, has reached what the American Medical Association called an “epidemic” level.
That’s why it’s essential to continue giving trans people the platform to tell their stories from their own perspectives, Schmider said – fostering understanding helps chip away at discrimination.
Danica Roem, the first openly trans person to be reelected to state legislature
Earlier this month, Danica Roem won Virginia’s 13th District House of Delegates seat for the second time. In her first historic win in 2017, she beat a 13-term incumbent to clinch the 13th District seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates. The reporter-turned-politician ran on a platform of transportation and economic issues to improve Virginians’ quality of life.
(Roem is the first openly trans person to serve in state legislature. The first trans person to ever serve in state legislature was Althea Garrison, who was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1992, though she didn’t openly identify herself as trans at the time.)
Angelica Ross, the first trans person to host a presidential debate
The trans activist and star of the acclaimed FX series “Pose” hosted a forum on LGBTQ issues with eight presidential hopefuls on the Iowa campaign trail. When she’s not acting or advocating for trans equality, she’s running TransTech Social Enterprises, a tech education initiative for transgender workers.
Janet Mock, the first black trans woman to ink an overall deal at a major studio.
Mock signed a three-year, multimillion-dollar deal with Netflix in June, hot off the heels of the second season premiere of “Pose,” which she produces, writes for and directs (and made history with the largest cast of trans series regulars on TV).
The multihyphenate didn’t divulge major details about her upcoming projects but promised in the deal’s announcement to “introduce millions, hundreds of millions, of viewers to trans people and showing people who may not understand us that we can tell our own stories.”
Dreamer / Nia Nal, the first trans superhero on TV
This year, trans actress Nicole Maines debuted as Nia Nal, a journalist who moonlights as the astral projecting superhero Dreamer, in the CW’s “Supergirl.” But Maines was a trans hero before she ever played one. When she was 17, she won a discrimination lawsuit against her Maine school district that changed state law to allow trans students to use school bathrooms designated for the gender they identify with.
Nyla Rose, the first trans woman wrestler to sign major US wrestling promotion
Rose signed to All Elite Wrestling earlier this year, a decision the promotion downplayed at first. But Rose has never kept her trans identity secret. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, she addressed wrestling fans who might be wary of supporting a trans athlete, saying, “All I can ask is that some of the people out there…just give me a chance to show you what I can do in the ring.”
CeCe Telfer, the first trans woman to win an NCAA track and field title
The Division II athlete dominated the 400-meter hurdles in June, a win that led critics to believe she had an unfair advantage against the cis women she competed against. But Felter largely ignores the transphobia that follows her, she told LGBTQ sports blog Outsports, and instead uses social media to support other young trans athletes.
Aaron Philip, the first trans, black, disabled model to land a major magazine cover
She made her stunning debut on the Pride cover of Paper magazine in June. Philip, who was born with cerebral palsy, made history in September 2018 when she became the first black, trans and disabled model to sign with the esteemed Elite Model Management agency.
“The fashion market has only known one type of body and one type of marketable figure for so long,” she told CNN in February. “Now we’re entering this time, and this climate, where all types of bodies want to be pushed forward and celebrated – not only be celebrated but be seen as desirable and marketable.”
Valentina Sampaio, first trans woman to model for Victoria’s Secret
The Brazilian model’s hiring came months after former chief marketing officer Ed Razek said trans models, whom he referred to as “transsexuals,” an outdated and offensive term, didn’t belong in the brand’s runway shows.
Clearly, Sampaio’s runway cred proves him wrong.
She appeared at the Teen Vogue Summit this month in support of Victoria’s Secret PINK brand, where she shared how self-care helped her embrace her trans identity.