Thanks to an era of burgeoning gender diversity on television and in independent films, a new crop of transgender actresses has emerged. They’re more than capable of taking on trans roles, and as we move toward gender identity becoming a nonissue, why shouldn’t they be considered for any female role?
On ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money, she became the first trans actress to play a trans character on a prime-time network series, and she’s since racked up an impressive list of film and TV credits including recurring roles on Nip/Tuck and Elementary. Cayne most recently appeared as herself on E!'s I Am Cait and on the new NBC series Heartbeat.
The award-winning star of Orange Is the New Black has become a major advocate for transgender equality, gracing the covers of Time magazine, The Advocate, and Entertainment Weekly. She appeared in the Lily Tomlin film Grandma and is currently filming the TV remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show — as that sweet transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
Her film debut as Sin-Dee in last year’s sleeper hit Tangerine earned Rodriguez a slew of award nominations, including Best Actress in the Independent Spirit Awards. But she shows clear signs of being much more than a one-hit wonder. The actress was named to The Advocate's 40 Under 40 for her work to raise awareness of the issues faced by sex workers.
The actress and singer earned 11 nominations and four breakthrough and supporting actress awards, including an Independent Spirit Award, for her performance as Alexandra in Tangerine. Another honoree in The Advocate's 40 Under 40, the actress is also an activist, who told The Advocate she had a pointed message to lawmakers who pass anti-LGBT legislation: "Do I have a message for them? You really want to know? Tell them to fuck off. That’s what you tell them."
First known as one of the hottest stars on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Carrera came out as transgender after the season ended. She’s since shown up in a recurring role on The Bold and the Beautiful, on TV’s Jane the Virgin, and opposite Meryl Streep in the film Ricki and the Flash. An outspoken opponent of transphobic language in media, she's also had time to speak with The Advocate about the issues that can arise when dating while trans and grace the cover of Plus magazine to raise HIV awareness.
One of the first trans models to be signed to worldwide representation by the modeling powerhouse IMG, Neff studied theater at Columbia University and has appeared as Gittel on TV’s Transparent as well as in indie films and shorts. She is an ardent believer that transgender people should be cast in transgender roles.
This model and actress was featured in Barneys' transgender ad campaign. She's appeared this year in the TV series Outsiders and in the independent film All We Had, directed by Katie Holmes.
This drag diva, who came out as trans in 2008, has had a slew of film and TV credits since appearing as Diana Ross in 1994 on Roseanne and in a recurring role on The John Larroquette Show. Her film credits include Blast From the Past and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and she recently appeared on Sons of Anarchy, Glee, and The Crazy Ones.
America’s most famous — and polarizing — trans woman had a long acting career back when she was Bruce. After a film debut in the Village People’s 1980 musical debacle Can’t Stop the Music, Jenner appeared in many TV shows and movies, including a recurring role on CHiPs and guest roles on The Fall Guy, Murder, She Wrote, and The Love Boat. Whether or not her public persona would overshadow any roles she might play remains to be seen, and it has been announced that she will appear in the upcoming season of Transparent.