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25 Trans Pioneers Who Took Us Past the Tipping Point in 2015

25 Trans Pioneers Who Took Us Past the Tipping Point in 2015

TRANS Pioneers

Even as attacks against trans people of color increased, 2015 saw greater acceptance for gender-variant people. Below, we celebrate some of the people who opened hearts and minds.


Last year, Time magazine featured Laverne Cox, the statuesque Orange Is the New Black actress on its cover, identifying the increased visibility of gender-variant people to be the "transgender tipping point."

This year, even as attacks against trans Americans rose to epidemic proportions, notable trans and gender-nonconforming youth and adults established themselves as brilliant advocates, educators, artists, policy analysts, entertainers, models, and technologists. These are some of the people that made 2015 the year when trans people pushed cultural understanding beyond the tipping point.


The Teen Pioneers

High school trans activist Lila Perry (above, left) fought for inclusive accommodations for transgender students in the Midwest.

Teen YouTube style enthusiast, Gabrielle Diana Gladu (above, center)gave hope to trans teens everywhere who struggle in the aftermath of suicide with her stirring, principled stand to be herself.

With the debut of her hit TLC reality show, I Am Jazz, 15-year-old Jazz Jennings (above, right) reached new heights in her quest to share affirming messages about the lives of trans teens.


The Activists

Jennicet Gutierrez (above, left) brought unprecedented visibility to the torture, rape, and imprisonment of LGBTQ immigrants in American detention centers when she interrupted President Barack Obama at the White House LGBT Pride event in June. For two minutes until she was escorted out, she repeatedly demanded that the president "release all LGBTQ immigrants," despite shouts and jeers from other LGBT advocates in attendance, proving that direct action can still draw attention to grave injustices.

When she cofounded the Baltimore Trans Alliance and helped organize the Baltimore Trans Uprising protests, Bryana Jenkins (above, center) brought vital attention to the mistreatment of trans people of color, who face disproportionate rates of harassment, violence, and police brutality.

Jes Grobman (above, right) of D.C. Trans Power risked arrest by D.C. police while supporters chanted "Let her go!" to protest the grave conditions faced by trans people of color at a rally for trans resilience.

POlicy analysts

The Policy Analysts

Diego Miguel Sanchez (above, left) reached new heights this year as the Director of Policy for PFLAG. Sanchez was most recently the senior policy advisor to Congressman Barney Frank before Frank's retirement two years ago, making Sanchez the first openly transgender person to work as a senior legislative staff member on Capitol Hill.

On November 24, noted trans Latina health advocateJoanna Maria Cifredo (above, center) announced her new position by tweeting, "Yay! I'm officially the new Racial & Economic Justice Policy Analyst at the National Center for Transgender Equality!"

As the survey project manager for the groundbreaking "2015 U.S. Trans Survey," Sandy James (above, right) and his team successfully steered the project to complete its data collection phase. He is also an attorney and a former Urvashi Vaid Research Fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force.

reality stars

The Reality TV Stars

Madison Hinton, (above, left) the transgender comedienne, YouTube and Facebook star, and nightclub entertainer known as "TS Madison," raised her ever-blossoming profile when she was featured on WEtv's hit reality how, Selling It In The ATL.

B. Scott (above, center), the TV, radio, and digital media maven settled her gender discrimination lawsuit against BET and Viacom in February 2015. Scott, who uses the pronouns he/him, she/her, and they/their interchangeably, started her atmospheric rise in 2010 with a YouTube video that explained how she came out as both gay and trans during her sophomore year in college. Last year, she was included in The Advocate's 40 Under 40 series highlighting "emerging voices."

Transgender community health educatorChandi Moore (above, right) consistently stands out as a voice of reason and reality on E!'s I Am Cait docu-series, especially when she reminds the white, wealthy Caitlyn Jenner of the racial and economic disparities facing trans people of color.

The Professors

The Professors

Cornell University professor C. Riley Snorton (above, left) is a trans man who won a coveted National Endowment for the Humanities Schomburg Center Scholar-in-Residence fellowship to write a historical book about trans identity and race.

Two years after being unjustly fired and discriminated against for being trans at the California Christian college where he'd worked for 15 years, H. Adam Ackley (above, center) found renewed peace and joy as an adjunct teacher at the University of Redlands and the University of California, Irvine.

Last year, University of Arizona professor Susan Stryker, (above, right) a trans woman, became the founding co-editor of the new Duke University Press journal TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly, and this year she won the 2015/16 James R. Brudner '83 Memorial Prize.


The Creative Writers

Between perfomances at universities across the country of their "It Gets Bitter" tour, and coverage in magazines like Bustleand The Advocate, the Dark Matter South Asian poetry collective's Alok Vaid-Menon (above left) and Janani Balasubramanian (above, second from left) broke out this year as a strikingly prophetic voice, speaking truth about non-binary trans people and socio-economic disparities amongst LGBT people.

Poet Trace Peterson (above, third from left) teamed up with the trans male poet TC Tolbert (far right) to co-edit an anthology called Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. New York City-based Peterson designed and taught America's first course at Hunter College fully dedicated to transgender poetry. Arizona-based Tolbert has been teaching a class called "Transgender Literature" that covers more than poetry at the University of Arizona for two years.


The Models

Bodybuilder Aydian Dowling's (above, left) cover photo for FTM magazine went viral in March, leading to appearances on the EllenShow, and landing the 27-year-old a runner-up nod for the "Reader's Choice" cover of Men's Health magazine.

Amiyah Scott, (above, center) an iconic transgender model and makeup artist who made news for reportedly filming scenes as a friend of the actress Kenya Moore on E!'s Real Housewives of Atlanta, before reportedly being denied access by NeNe Leakes. But she may soon land an even better gig: a guest spot on a spinoff of the hit Fox musical drama Empire.

Laith Ashley De La Cruz (above, right), is a trans male model who made hearts stop on Instagram when he became Out magazine's "Man Crush Monday."

The Technologists

The Technologists

Brielle Harrison (above, left), is Apple's new inspiring senior software engineer and is helping to make the tech industry better for transgender employees and users.

Jacob Wanderling, (above, center) a trans male YouTuber, was featured in a stirring Google advertisement about his transition.

Celebrated tech pioneerMartine Rothblatt, (above, right) the transgender CEO of United Therapeutics, founder of Sirius radio, and roboticist is not only one of the wealthiest LGBT people in country, but gained even wider acclaim as the focus of an Interactive Keynote address at South by Southwest 2015.

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Cleis Abeni

Cleis (pronounced like "dice") is a former correspondent for The Advocate.
Cleis (pronounced like "dice") is a former correspondent for The Advocate.