I don’t know about you, but I heard a lot of uninformed comments after Caitlyn Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer.
Thankfully, most of the people I surround myself with in my personal life spoke positively and were well-informed. But a lot of people don’t take the time to learn about something that they feel doesn’t impact them. They have no transgender friends or family members, so why should they care to learn about it?
Personally, I believe we should all inform ourselves about the plights of our fellow humans. I’d like to think that our role in this world together is to understand one another and impart something good onto one another’s lives. That doesn’t happen if people still think it’s alright to ask a transgender person we’ve only known for five minutes if they’ve had gender reassignment surgery. (Guys, that is so not OK.)
While most transgender people don’t have the opportunity to stand on the world stage and affect change, the ones who do are helping to combat misinformation about transgender people and trying to push for more policy changes.
Probably the most visible person fighting for transgender rights is Laverne Cox. If you’re as addicted to Netflix as most people, you’ve seen her steal many scenes in Orange is the New Black. When she’s not on-screen, Laverne travels around the globe, educating people and opening the discussion on what it means to be transgender.
I follow Laverne on Instagram, where I get a healthy dose of her travels but also learn about issues we should all be fighting to the change, like the number of suicides among transgender teens and the shocking number of transgender people who’ve been murdered this year alone. (According to Cox, seven trans women were murdered in the first eight weeks of this year.)
When asked in an interview with Janet Mock about Bruce Jenner, Cox had a beautiful response about how visibility can help create policy change. Also, pay attention to her proper use of pronouns. It’s usually a good idea to ask a trans person which pronouns they prefer because “he” and “she” are not universal, and the answer is not always apparent.
Seen interviewing Laverne Cox in the video above, Janet Mock is credited with starting the #GirlsLikeUs social media movement for transgender women.
Mock, who was previously a writer for People, came out in a 2011 Marie Claire article. (By the way, the writer misgendered her several times and made other mistakes, which further points out why we should be more informed.) Her best-selling memoir, Redefining Realness, has been heralded not only for the openness with which she tells her story but also for the light it’s shone on the transgender community.
She turned some ideas from her book into a short video series, including one on the concept of “passing,” something she’s vocal about her disdain for. The idea of “passing” means you’re trying to be something that you’re not, but Janet is, and always has been, a woman. That’s something many unfortunately struggle with understanding. (Of course, not every transgender person feels this way. In fact, some feel like they were “passing” in the time before they started their trans journey.)
Vlogger Aydian Dowling is poised to become the first transgender man on the cover of Men’s Health, leading the pack in the magazine’s annual “Ultimate Guy” contest. You may also know him from that viral recreation of an Adam Levine PSA earlier this year.
Much of Aydian’s activism has been achieved by letting people into his personal life, like allowing It Gets Better to profile the challenges he and his wife faced while trying to wed because he’s transgender. More notably, he’s been profiling his trans journey on YouTube for the past five years, offering insight on everything from shaving to questions about which surgeries he’s had.
For me, one of his most informative videos is about the difference gender identity and sexual orientation and, most importantly, how the perception changes from person to person. For example, Aydian does not view himself as a biological male, while many transgender men do.
Before coming out as transgender, Andreja was already modeling women’s clothing on the runway for some of the hottest brands (Anyone heard of a little label named Gaultier?) and booking photoshoots in some of the most-read fashion magazines in the world. Post-coming out, she just became the first transgender model to be profiled by Vogue, appearing in the May issue.
She was told by agents several times not to transition, but went with her heart and came out publicly shortly after. While she is not the first transgender model to walk the runway (see: Lea T.), Andreja is the one of the most notable strutting in today’s shows, continuing to open the door for more acceptance in the future.
Andreja is currently working on a documentary profiling her journey from, in her own words, “androgyny to womanhood.” From what she’s said, it will look at her life from her childhood as a refugee, living in a camp in Serbia during the Bosnian War, to her rising fame as a an androgynous model, all through the lens of someone coming to accept their gender identity. There’s not really a trailer for it yet, but she did create a Kickstarter video (the project was fully funded) that features scenes from the film.
Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments who you think should be added to the list!
(image via Laverne Cox Instagram)