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Year in Review

40 People Who Show 2014 Was a Year for Breaking Gender Rules

40 People Who Show 2014 Was a Year for Breaking Gender Rules


Keeping ourselves to listing only 40 phenomenal trans, gender-fluid, and nonbinary people who broke barriers in 2014 was the hardest part -- which is pretty cool in itself.

Ask anyone in LGBT media and they'll you: Trans visibility is on the upswing in a huge way. Last year The Advocate established a dedicated Transgender channel on this site to better capture how much was and still is going on in the lives and art of trans movers and shakers. The result has been powerful.

Daily accounts of local or national political gains, achievements in arts or sports, and simple, sweet stories of pride and everyday family love have poured in throughout the year. Below, we've highlighted some of the most bold, heartwarming, and eye-opening accomplishments from trans and gender-nonconforming people in 2014.

While there has also been an equal number of stories of tragedy -- particularly in the ongoing epidemic of violence against trans women of color in the U.S. and worldwide -- we've focused here on the increasing positive presence of trans people's stories being told to an ever-larger public audience. Celebrating and elevating the lives of trans people is just one part of creating a world where antritrans violence is altogether eradictated.

Read on to learn about some of our heroes: the activists, artists, journalists, and everyday men and women who made 2014 one of the best years yet for trans visibility and equality.

T1color3_0_0Left to right: CeCe McDonald (Screenshot), Geena Rocero (Facebook),Ben Panico (Courtesy), and Greta Martela (Getty Images),

1. CeCe McDonald
Prisoner Rights Activist
A Minnesota trans woman imprisoned for second-degree manslaughter in what many trans advocates consider a case of self-defense, McDonald emerged from incarceration in January to find that her case had ignited a national conversation about the policing of trans women of color and prison rights. She now speaks publicly about her experiences and has joined with producer Laverne Cox to tell her story in the forthcoming documentary Free CeCe.

2. Geena Rocero
Model and Founder of Gender Proud
When Rocero came out as a trans woman during a TED talk in April, she was greeted with a standing ovation. Since then, the Filipina model has used her platform to launch Gender Proud, a campaign that brings awareness to the nearly global issue of trans people not being able receive correct identification documents without first undergoing forced sterilization or other forms of genital surgery.

3. Ben Panico
Congressional Aide, LGBT Equality Caucus
Currently the only out trans staffer on Capitol Hill (and only the fourth in the Hill's history) Panico says that he values being able to speak to trans issues in his job of supporting the openly lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of the House as they advance pro-equality legislation.

4. Greta Martela
Founder, Trans Lifeline
When Martela experienced how alienating the suicide hotline experience can be for trans people -- a population a with a suicide risk nearly 10 times that of cisgender (nontrans) people -- she took it into her own hands to found Trans Lifeline, developed with and staffed solely by trans-identified volunteers.

T2color_4_0From left: Eli Erlick (Facebook), Ian Harvie (Photo by Kevin Neales), Laverne Cox (Photo by Amanda Friedman for The Advocate), and Jay Kelly(Instagram)

5. Eli Erlick
Cofounder, Transgender Student Education Resources
Three years ago while still a high school student, Erlick cofounded TSER as a place for trans students, as well as school administrators and instructors, to find resources on how to make education more trans-inclusive. This year the activist, now 19, was honored by Peace First with a $15,000 grant to continue and expand her collaborative work with TSER's members.

6. Ian Harvie
Actor and Comedian
In giving us Dale, a charming grad school student, on Jill Soloway's hit trans-themed dramedy Transparent, Harvie became one of only two out trans men protraying a trans male character on American television (also see: Tom Phelan, on the following pages).

7. Laverne Cox
Actress, Producer, Activist
A down-to-earth star who uses her platform to elevate public conversation about the media's treatment of trans subjects and the policing of trans women of color, Cox had an incredible year: She toured the country speaking, produced two documentaries (The T Word, Free CeCe) and made history as the first out trans actress to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy (for playing Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black) and the first out trans cover model for Time magazine (for "The Transgender Tipping Point").

8. Jay Kelly
Celebrity Offspring
In June the 14-year-old son of R&B singer R. Kelly and designer Drea Kelly came out as trans, giving a national face to trans youth and expressing via social media, in a tone pitch-perfect for his teen audience, why being trans just "isn't such a huge deal."

T3color_0From left: Landon Wilson (Screenshot), Janet Mock (Getty Images), Lea T(Getty Images), and Brooke Guinan(Facebook)

9. Landon Wilson
Veteran, Military-Inclusion Activist
A former U.S. Navy cryptologist who was discharged for a gender-marker mismatch on his military paperwork, Wilson has turned his difficult experience into an opportunity to become one of the nation's most vocal advocates for the repeal of the U.S.'s ongoing ban on including openly trans members in the armed forces.

10. Janet Mock
Author, Speaker, Journalist
Mainstream media is generally clueless about how to cover trans people, so Mock uses her platform as the New YorkTimes best-selling author of Redefining Realness and contributing editor to Marie Claireto change that.

11. Lea T
Known for being the muse of lead Givenchy designer Ricardo Tisci, Lea T made history this year when she joined Redken, becoming the first out trans model to be the face of a global cosmetics campaign.

12. Brooke Guinan
FDNY Firefihter
A third-generation firefighter and the first openly trans member of the New York Fire Department, Guinan began speaking out about barriers to employment for trans-, LGBQ-, and female-identified people after her entry in the "So Trans? So What?" public education campaign went viral.

T4color_0From left: Ruby Rose (Facebook), Tona Brown (Courtesy of GLAAD), Robina Asti (Screenshot), and Aiza Seguerra(Instagram)

13. Ruby Rose
DJ, Model
In July, the popular Australian entertainer opened up about identifying as gender-neutral and gender-fluid, producing "Break Free," a video about defying the gender binary, that reached millions of viewers.

14. Tona Brown
With support from her fans, singer and violinist Brown became the first out trans woman to play at Carnegie Hall.

15. Robina Asti
WWII Veteran
When the Social Security Administration refused this 92-year-old WWII veteran her spousal survivor benefits after her husband died -- claiming her marriage was an invalid same-sex union -- Asti fought back and ultimately won her case, promtping the SSA to update its policies.

16. Aiza Seguerra
Singer, Actor
One of the most popular singer-actors in the Philippines ever since he was a child star, Seguerra became the nation's most well-known trans man when he came out in a talk show interview.

T5color2_0From left Andreja Peijic (Getty Images), Padmini Prakash (Screenshot), Alex (Screenshot), and Angelica Ross(Photo by Myles Brady)

17. Andreja Peijic
A familiar face to readers of Elle and New York magazines, Peijic came out in July on Entertainment Tonight, using the moment to offer support to her young, gender-nonconforming fans.

18. Padmini Prakash
TV News Anchor
A former actor and dancer, Prakash became India's first out trans TV news anchor just months after the country's Supreme Court decided to legally recognize trans people as a third gender.

19. Alex
YouTube Sensation
Pint-sized poet Alex, an 8-year-old camper at Camp Aranu'tiq for trans and gender-nonconforming youth, touched hundreds of thousands of hearts with his rap about about his mom accepting him as a trans boy.

20. Angelica Ross
Entrepreneur, Musician, Advocate
Dedicated to creating positive media and opportunities for trans people, this year Ross founded one-of-a-kind nonprofit TransTech to train trans "apprentices" to become self-reliant freelancers in Web development and graphic design.

T6color2_0From left: Kai (Screenshot), Laura Jane Grace (center, Screenshot), Emmett Lundberg(far right,Courtesy), and Fallon Fox(Twitter)

21. Kai and Dean, the Brotherboys
The world saw a first for Australia's indigenous trans men -- a little-discussed community known locally as "Brotherboys" -- when Kai and Dean screened a video of their stories to an international audience at the 2014 International AIDS Conference.

22. Laura Jane Grace
Rock Star
In the two years after telling the world she was trans in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, Grace has been searingly self-searching in her work as an artist. This year she released Transgender Dysphoria Blueswith her band Against Me! and hosted a documentary series for AOL Originals, True Trans.

23. Emmett Lundberg
Noticing a lack of trans men in scripted television, Lundberg took matters into his own hands by penning, directing, and starring in Brothers, a groundbreaking Web series focused on four millenial trans men living in New York City.

24. Fallon Fox
Mixed Martial Artist
After coming out as trans in 2013, Fox has excelled in the ring, winning five out of six professional fights this year. She's also found her voice as an advocate, publicly addressing unfounded arguments about trans women's "advantages" against cisgender (nontrans) opponents, as well as stereotypes about trans women more broadly.

T7color_0From left: Monica Jones(Facebook), Lydia Foy(via, Thomas Page McBee(Courtesy), and Nicole Maines(center, via

25. Monica Jones
Sex Worker Rights Activist
After she was convicted of a crime she and many others refer to as "walking while trans," Jones refused to be silent about how the law enforcement around her seems to profile trans women of color. She's currently appealing her conviction on constitutional grounds, and also spoke out against alleged "procedural misconduct" by the Australian immigration officials when they apparently notified a reality TV show she would be deported.

26. Lydia Foy
Fighting Ireland's government for more 20 years to have the gender marker on her birth certificate changed to "female," Foy finally saw her persistence pay off this year. Ireland's High Court ruled that her human rights had been violated and Foy was granted a $62,000 settlement.

27. Thomas Page McBee
A columnist on masculinity for Rumpus, Pacific Standard, and (formerly) Vice, McBee released his first book-length work of creative nonfiction, Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness, and Becoming a Man, to great acclaim in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Out, and The New York Times.

28. Nicole Maines
Student, Advocate
Five years after she first filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination from her Orono, Maine, school for refusing her access to the girls' bathroom, Maines finally won her landmark lawsuit and a $75,000 settelement this year in the Maine Supreme Court. Now 17, Maines was named one of Glamour magazine's 2014 Women of the Year.

T8color_1From left: Arisce Wanzer(Twitter), Juan Evans(Courtesy), Rhys Ernst (left) and Zackary Drucker(Facebook), andJennifer Barge (via the CDC)

29. Arisce Wanzer
Model, Writer
An successful fashion model and irreverent dating columnist (who charmingly refers to her readers as "Ariscetocrats"), Wanzer gained noterity this year for penning an open letter holding Kendall Jenner, a daughter of the Kardashian family, accountable for denying how privilege played a part in her modeling career -- and not backing down despite criticism and transphobia from some of Jenner's fans.

30. Juan Evans
Arrested and allegedly called an "it" by police who threatened him with forced genital searches, East Point, Ga., citizen Juan Evans turned challenge into triumph by sharing his story with thousands of people, stating, "I will not live in fear of [the police], I will not let you shame and humiliate me. ... You don't have a right to arrest me for being trans."

31. Rhys Ernst and Zackary Drucker
Artists and Associate Producers of Transparent
Partners in love and creativity, Ernst and Drucker both had their art featured in several shows this year, including Trigger Warning!! and Trans Time. They also associate-produced and consulted on Jill Soloway's trans-themed scripted TV show Transparent.

32. Jennifer Barge
HIV/AIDS Activist
Out of thousands, Barge was chosen by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be on of 15 faces for the national "HIV Treatment Works" campaign. In using her story to address an issue that disproportionately affects trans women, Barge became the first out trans person to be a CDC spokesperson.

T9color_0From left: Tom Phelan(Courtesy), Pat Cordova-Goff(Courtesy),Carmen Carrera(Getty Images), andLou Cutler(Courtesy)

33. Tom Phelan
Portraying unapologetic trans teen Cole on popular LGBT-themed dramedy The Fosters, Phelan this year became the first out nonbinary, transmasculine person to play a trans male character on scripted American television.

34. Pat Cordova-Goff
Student Athlete
A California high school senior and varsity softball player, Cordova-Goff brought national attention to the reality that trans teens desire to and should be equally included in high school athletics.

35. Carmen Carrera
Model, Advocate
Ever fearless, Carrera took to the year to decry the use of transphobic language, address her detractors head-on, and question body image and censorship by modeling nude for the world's largest HIV/AIDs benefit, Life Ball.

36. Lou Cutler
Mr. Gay Philadelphia
Winning Mr. Gay Philadelpha as an out trans man allowed Cutler's audiences and readers across the country to see queer, trans male sexuality in a way they hadn't before.

T10color_0From left: Audrey Mbugua(Courtesy), Blossom Brown (Screenshot),Jennifer(Photo by Amanda Brown via ACLU), andLeslie Feinberg(Self-portrait)

37. Audrey Mbugua
Trans Rights Activist
Described by the Africa Review as "arguably Kenya's most famous transsexual [person]," Mbugua became the leading voice for trans rights in her country in 2009, when she first went public with her story of being denied access to gender-affirming surgery. This year, she won a landmark lawsuit against the Kenyan National Examinations Council, that required the government agency to recognize her true name and gender on her educational records.

38. Blossom Brown
Public Health Student
Taking part in the Human Rights Campaign's "All God's Children" series, college student Blossom Brown showed Mississippi that being a devout Christian and being transgender are not mutually exclusive.

39. Jennifer and Nicolas
U.S. Military Veterans
Working with New Jersey's American Civil Liberties Union, Jennifer, who served 29 years in the U.S. Army, and Nicolas, who served nine years in the National Guard, won the unprecedented right to update their names on their military discharge paperwork, allowing them full access to the veterans benefits they earned.

40. Leslie Feinberg
Author, Activist
This year the world lost one of the most groundbreaking trans writers in the English language: Leslie Feinberg, who died 65 from complications of several tick-borne diseases. 2014 was a year to pause and remember Feinberg's lasting impact on trans literature and the trans liberation movement. In 1993, Feinberg released Stone Butch Blues, a novel revered worldwide for giving a voice to gender complexities. Also a fierce advocate for the socialist and labor movements, Feinberg's last words, as told to her partner, Minnie Bruce Pratt, were "Remember me as a revolutionary communist."

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Mitch Kellaway