Thursday, December 3, 2015

TransMusePlanet's 4th Annual Top 20 Most Influential Trans People of 2015

By Sabrina Samone, TMP

Again, our friends of TMP have voted, and chosen who are our most outstanding and influential trans people of 2015. Three years ago, I did the first top 20, and decided this would be an annual list on TransMusePlanet. The second year I asked a few friends, readers, and followers of our social media pages to vote. Last year, I held a poll here on the blog, and now for the 4th Annual TMP's Choice, a record 354 votes have been cast on this blog, and our social media pages combined.

The nominations were chosen based on their mentions in stories shared on our face book, tumblr, and google + pages throughout the year, then I placed a poll and asked our friends of TMP to vote.

Here are your votes. A list of those that have inspired us, entertained us, and educated our community. The notorious and controversial, along with those who have inspired us. Our community is varied, yet we are a community. As Miss Major Griffin-Gracy says, "We have to look out for one another because we're all we've got."

There has been much debate in our community over who is fit to represent, a resistance to those some feel are a contribution to a single hetero-normative identity ideal, or even those with different political views. Many say we don't have a community because trans people are so different, with different stories. That can be said of the entire human race, yet we bond with those who have shared experiences, values, and aspirations. Regardless of the differences one thing is true about all of us; we all share a desire to live an authentic life that is different than that of what society has told us we ought to be. Every week, weather you are black or white, Christian or Muslim, male or female, rich or poor; we stick a needle with either E or T to transition our bodies to become who we see when our eyes are closed at night. In all our childhood dreams, the dream has been to see ourselves as we truely are. We are all on this journey together, a community. These maybe the voted heroes of our community, but every trans person that dares to live life on their terms is an inspiration, and hero to the next 'genderation.'


1. Jazz Jennings

It could be with a glimpse into our future behind the choice, by our friends of TMP, for our number one most influential trans person. Poetically, she sits atop of our list, as the new queen of trans society. In the age of the 'bathroom battles', she is an example of why that issue needs to be addressed in countless high schools around the nation.

Jazz Jennings is a glimpse into our next 'genderation' of a trans planet. She is ushering in the next frontier for trans and cis people alike, to a new enlightenment of gender, and spirituality.

Over the years, countless trans youth and their supportive families have stepped forward to proclaim their authenticity, and to express their right to pursue a life of happiness and fulfillment. If you look at any of this year's trans youth making headlines, like Ben Jones, Landon Patterson, Lila Perry, or others among our list like  Capri Chase Culpepper, you will definitely find bread crumbs that lead back nearly ten years ago to a video of a seven year old Jazz. She would later be discovered by Barbara Walters and usher in a new era of trans youth discussions.

After the series of appearances on Barbara Walters, Jazz immediately became a trans community darling, advocate, and spokesperson for trans youth. She's received several awards from GLAAD, LOGO TV, Time Magazine's most influential teens, and the prestigious Colin Higgins Youth Courage Award. In part to her and her families Trans Kids Purple Rainbow Foundation, and her book  'I Am Jazz'. This year she became a spokesperson for Clean & Clear, and the her new popular reality show on TLC "I Am Jazz'. A show that would ironically replace the canceled, scandalous, and bigoted reality show, 'The Duggars's, 19 Kids and Counting.' These actions have sealed her position as one of the most powerful and influential trans people of this year.

More than ever, Jazz Jennings is a beacon of hope for many young trans people fortunate enough to have unconditional parental love. A polar opposite of an even more discussed trans teen in 2015, Lelah Alcorn, who threw herself in front of an eighteen wheeler and urged us all to "Fix Society." Part of fixing society for Jeanette Jennings can be summed up by the mother herself who said, "I'd rather have a live daughter, than a dead son."

2. Laverne Cox

If there is one person in our community who stands as a champion of hope, it's Laverne Cox. She's the public face for transgender America, and an invaluably needed spokesperson for trans women of color. It's no wonder Entertainment Weekly chose her as the Lady Liberty in their June issue. She is without a doubt, our 'genderation's' most visible and famous trans person. She made history by being the first trans person to win an Emmy nomination for her role in 'Orange Is The New Black,' the first to appear at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and the first trans person to have a wax figure of herself at Madame Tussads.

Born in rural Mobile Alabama, she experienced extreme bullying resulting in several suicide
attempts. It is because of her struggles coming up in one of the most oppressed regions of America, and beating all odds, that she has become a voice for many of the voiceless trans people around the world. A trailblazer, she's won numerous awards for her activist approach to spreading awareness of transgender issues, and for her spotlight on the plight of trans women of color.

She's broken through the ceiling of many barriers, and lightening the load for the next 'genderation' of trans people. Her tireless effort on the behalf of trans women, and women of color, has lead her to co-produce the story of CeCe McDonald; voted another favorite by our friends of TMP. She leads the charge of trans visibility and reminds the world as she says,  "It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist."

3. Janet Mock 
She could very well be our community's answer to Oprah Winfrey; one of the most inspiring figures in trans society. Janet Mock challenges the world to see the quest of transgender people as a personal quest to live a pure, authentic life. An author, journalist, TV-host, and a fierce activist, Mock writes the script for transgender activism. She created transgender-specific programs and education for the TQBGL center of the Hetrick-Martin Institute , which operates the Harvey Milk High School;  a NYC highschool for TQBGL students. Mock is also the creator of one of our culture's most popular hashtags, #girlslikeus, and the first transgender author to top the New York Times Bestseller List with her highly acclaimed 'Redefining Realness'.
A single tweet about her interview with CNN's Piers Morgan, rallied the troops with unprecedented complaint's against the CNN host, which marked the beginning of his demise.

She's achieved countless awards such as the Sylvia Rivera Activist Award, and is considered one of the most powerful TBGL celebrities today. This year she became the first transgender host of her own MSNBC show, 'So Popular', where she continues to call to task the journalistic standards for transgender people. She topped her year of headlines with the marriage to her fiance Aaron Tredwell, continuing her influence of inspiration for millions of
trans women. She continues to write the script when she stated, "I am a trans woman. My sisters are trans women. We are not shameful. We are worthy of respect, desire, and love. As there are many kinds of women, and many men desire many kinds of women, trans women are amongst these women. And let's be clear: Trans women are women."


6. Laura Jane Grace
Born outside a Georgia military base, Laura Jane Grace was born to rock! As the front person for the punk rock band 'Against Me,' she gained a loyal, dedicated fan base, and secured her position in the music industry. Unknown to many of her fans, were her struggles with gender dysphoria. After coming out as trans, she immediately became a voice for countless trans musicians to come, and a hero to many in the trans community.

With her trans anthems such as 'True Trans Rebel',  from her
coming out EP 'Transgender Dysphoria Blues', she set the trend to show the diversity and talents of transgender people everywhere. She sung the words of the trans rebel in all of us when she said, "Yet to be born, you're already dead. You follow it through to the obvious end: Slit your veins wide open, you bleed it out. You should have been a mother, you should have been a wife. You should have been gone from here years ago, you should have been living a different life. Does God bless your transsexual heart, True Trans Soul Rebel."

20. Ian Harvie
Ian Harvey is among a small but rapidly growing band of visible trans men. As a stand up comedian, he takes an in-your-face approach of trans masculine issues to cis and trans audiences alike. Ian uses the lighter side of advocacy, and most recently it landed him a recurring role on the hit series, 'Transparent.' 
"I am a collector of identities and words that feel right to me. To me, this is an inarguable point. I am who I say I am, and that's not up for debate." -Ian Harvie


4. Caitlyn Jenner 

'Trans is a trend', had never been spoken with such belief until their was Caitlyn. This year, amongst growing speculation, Caitlyn Jenner came out to the world in old Hollywood style glamour, with her cover of Vanity Fair's June Issue. The issue began a media frenzy, that slammed the trans experience on the dinner tables of millions of homes across the world.

As a member of the notorious Kardashian clan, it didn't come without it's share of controversy. The reaction within the trans community greatly eclipsed the shock of the general public. After decades of trans people fighting for a crumb of visibility and recognition, it ignited the first huge debate within our community over who is, and/or should be, a representative of trans society. Regardless, she was a new born dropped in the middle of a media storm, and demanded to mature quickly as a spokesperson within trans culture.  Even with her much discussed political preferences, she is setting her own trend, even in the diversity of trans people's political views.  After receiving ESPN's Arthur Ash Award for Courage, she continues to struggle to develop, and live up to the visibility, and advocacy set by 'genderations' of trans people before her. Possibly she said it best when she said, "We're all different. That's not a bad thing. That's a good thing."

8. Aydian Dowling
In the era of visibility for trans people, the demand for trans-masculine representation took a giant leap forward when Aydian Dowling lead the pack of other trans men in the the run for the cover of Men's Health Magazine. Dowling, with his fan base and supporters of his clothing line, 'Point 5cc', climbed to the finals of the competition. As Janet Mock had proclaimed to the world that trans women are women, nothing this year said it louder that trans men are men than having an trans male considered among men of all walks of life in the competition for the cover of 'Men's Health'.
"Transform reality, and never surrender." - Aydian Dowling

 12. Andreja Pejic

One industry that has seen an explosion of trans representation, is the fashion industry. While many trans women, and now men, are making bold statements, and achievements in the industry, it is Andreja Pejic, that has taken the trans model to another dimension , and set the bar well into the stratosphere, with the arrival of the trans super model. Born in Bosnia, she began her career in modeling, as an androgynous model before coming out as trans. In May, she became the first trans model to be profiled by Vogue.
"I guess professionally, I've left my gender open to artistic interpretation." - Andrej Pejic

The Game Changers

5. Kristen Beck 

While our community's push for visibility, and inclusion has been taking root in many areas of human life, one of the most political achievements still seemed unattainable, until their was Kristen Beck. A former Navy Seal, she came out as trans with the memoir 'Warrior Princess: A Navy Seal's Journey to Coming out Transgender', in 2013. She began challenging, and raising awareness on the ban of transgender military personnel. Out Serve Magazine, called it one of the smartest and most important books of the year.

Don't ask, don't tell was lifted in 2010, but for countless transgender people, including Kristen Beck, the desire to serve openly as trans was denied. It would be Beck, leading the front line to abolish the ban on trans military personnel. She quickly became a voice for our invisible military heroes, whose service demanded to be respected, and given the freedom that they so willingly fought for.

On the heels of the Department of Defense's decision to allow transgender military personnel to serve openly this year, Beck announced her candidacy for Maryland's 5th Congressional District. The decorated war Veteran continues today to change the game for transgender people in the political world as well. Her campaign is running on the issues of better education, a cleaner environment, and fiscal responsibility. Support for Beck's campaign is growing, and with a win she would become the first transgender person to hold a seat in Congress. 
"Governor Huckabee, the military is 'not a social experiment'. We should fight prejudice, not propagate it." - Kristen Beck

7. CeCe McDonald
'Free Cece', was the chant heard throughout trans culture. We end the year with Cece McDonald as a beloved advocate for our community. Yet, we should never forget the injustice that led to her incarceration, charged with murder, for simply defending herself, and preventing her life from becoming another trans murder statistic. Her story made headlines and the cry for her immediate released was echoed in both trans, and cis communities. With the help of advocates like Laverne Cox, she is encouraging cities, and police force around the nation to revisit their policies on transgender individuals, and hate crimes.
"No one can take my identity away from me." --CeCe McDonald

10. Sgt. Shane Ortega Alejandro 
Shane Ortega is possibly the first openly trans person serving in the military. Shane is an avid activist for trans inclusion in the military. He comes from a long line of proud veterans, and challenged our country to respect his uniform. He travels the country to advocate for transgender military personnel. In June he was a guest speaker at Joint Base Pearl Harbor, for Pride Month in the Military. Alejandro has recently gain attention as a bodybuilder and competed in the NPC men's physique division, placing 4th. 
"I wanted to show them that we are human and most importantly, I wanted to show my love of this nation, and something greater than myself-our future." --Sgt. Shane Alejandro

16. Capri (Chase) Culpepper

She was just a teen girl, with make up on at a S.C. DMV, to get her driver's license, and changed a law. South Carolina is unfortunately among the states that still require full transition to alter gender marker on state I.D's, but that's not at all what Chase Culpepper was after, she simply wanted her drivers license to show what she looked like everyday, and was denied. The antiquated, bigoted South Carolina beliefs lead to a fire storm of outrage in both trans and cis communities. Quickly after a lawsuit with Culpepper as the victor, it became an obvious wake up call to South Carolinian's, that the fight for trans equality was at their doorsteps, and DMV's across the state were forced to change their policies. Culpepper continued to make headlines in our community, when she was later nominated as homecoming queen at her local high school in Anderson, SC.
"Just holding this new license that accurately depicts who I am, is a great and empowering thing for me. We have made progress, and a positive change in South Carolina." --Chase Culpepper

The Beauties Without The Beast

13. Carmen Carrera 

She was the burlesque girl who dared stand up to the male Diva RuPaul, and correct a gay black man on his transphobic use of derogatory words used to dehumanize trans women. The community began rallying behind Carrera when, she criticized RuPaul for the second time the transphobic issue re surfaced this year, which prompted LOGO to pull the "female of she-mail game from drag race, which sent RuPaul on a campaign to defend his use of the insulting T word. Some speculate that the decline in viewers that lead to the cancellation, was due in part to the trans community turning their backs simultaneously on RuPaul.

Her stand against the LGB elite and to call them out on their transphobia, her shhhh to Katie Couric, when asked about her 'private parts', and being the face, and inspiration for many Latin trans people, has made her a favorite among trans celebrities. Her career with Elite modeling agency continues to be her motivator to become the first trans woman as a Victoria Secret model.

Carmen Carrera, continues to be an advocate as well as a beauty that's inspiring trans people world wide. Currently she is back to reality TV with her separated domestic partner, Adrian Torres, in VH1's Couples Therapy.

"While I appreciate the opportunity to compete on 'Drag Race'. I ultimately earned my status through my efforts, and those of my agent, friends, fans, and family. I am not beholden to support RuPaul's use of transphobic language." --Carmen Carrera

17. Geena Rocero
Geena Rocero is one of those rare beauties with the brains, and the community organizational skills to match. The Philippine born rocero, migrated to the states in her late teens, and was later discovered by Next model management. She is as fierce an advocate, as she is a model, forming the advocacy, and aid organization 'Gender Proud'; that takes a stand for the rights of transgender people all over the world to 'self-identify with the fewest possible barriers.'

"Being LGBT is innovative, in & of itself. In a hetero-normative world, we've managed to be here, collectively sharing our resources, struggles, success, and our visions for a more just and compassionate world." -Geena Rocero

                          19. Laith Ashely
Last year after just beginning his medical transition, Laith Ashley received his first break in modeling as part of 17 transgender stories that were featured in a landmark Barney's campaign. He was later signed with the newly formed, Trans Model; a new agency that was formed as a result of the fast growing industry of transgender models. He quickly became their star model, propelling the visibility another step for trans masculinity, and has become one of the most discussed, and followed trans people on social media since the arrival of Caitlyn Jenner.
"I'm trying to become the best and truest version of myself, sharing light, and positivity with all my kings and queens." - Laith Ashley


9. Cpt. Hannah Winterbourne

If America needs to look to other countries as to how to integrate trans into the military, they can start by taking a glance across the pond. While many in the freest nation on earth now wait for the integration to take place, now that the ban has been lifted, Capt. Hannah Winterbourne is not only a military hero, but a hero of trans people everywhere, especially to our friends across the pond.

The Captain in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, began her military career at the age of 15, when she joined a college for Armed Forces, before being sponsored by the Army to study electronic engineering at Newcastle University. After serving in Afghanistan, she has become the British Army's highest-ranking transgender soldier, the only one to become an officer, and leading a company of more than 100 soldiers.

According to a recent report from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, transgender respondents are twice as likely as the rest of the population to enlist. In other countries, like Britian, and the case of Cpt. Winterbourne has proven, that inclusion does not harm the military, and that in fact research has proven it makes it better. 

"I think people soon realized it just didn't make a difference to my job.  I think at the end of the day I could still do all things I could do before I transitioned, and that's what the army really respects, because we're all about capability and output." --Cpt. Hannah Winterbourne

14. Bailey Jay

This year if you have found yourself reading an article on transgender issues, advocacy, or politics in one of the leading online magazines, newspapers, and noticed the name Bailey Jay mixed in with other advocates like Laverne Cox, Jenn Richards, and did a double take, you may want to start questioning why that is. Transgender adult film stars are undoubtedly some of the first trans representation for cis people for many decades, before Chaz Bono or Cox. In the past few years Bailey Jay, along with others in the industry like Buck Angel, have been leading the charge of restructuring the image of trans in porn as we've come to know it. Increasingly flexing her activist muscles; she along with other top trans performers boycotted to create the new name for the award ceremony that is now knows as the Transgender Erotica Awards vs. the earlier more derogatory term. Currently she is earning new fame as the co-host of 'The Vice's Jim Norton Show', who himself has come out, as a man attracted to trans-women. Bailey Jay continues to advocate for the trans community and encourage all to embrace, rather than shame trans-feminine sexuality.

"I support the cd community, but I am a trans woman. I go by she/her pronouns. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I'm a sister. Being a woman isn't my fetish, it's my life." --Bailey Jay

18. Tiq Milan

He is one of the undisputed leading men in trans advocacy. A preeminent voice for the too often unheard, and unseen trans men of color. Tiq Milan, is a writer, activist, media consultant, and national spokesperson for GLAAD. He's appeared on countless news outlets, as well as a featured writer for some of the leading political magazines. While many advocate in the public eye, Milan's approach is a more, on the ground community building, and outreach that has made him a warrior advocate among the trans community, especially trans men. Where some men speak of being leaders, Milan demonstrates it, and sets the standards for the trans men of our community to step forward and lead. The creator of several high profile awareness campaigns, he has appeared in many even more high profiled ones such as 'MTV's Look Different', 'Live Out Loud Homecoming Project', and has recently co-organized the 'This Is Luv' campaign to elevate Black TQBGL affirming love, and combat stereotypes of black communities being more homophobic than other communities. Currently Tiq Milan is the GLAAD Spirit Day Ambassador, encouraging millions of people to "go purple", as a sign of support for TBGL youth, and to speak out against bullying.

"The transgender experience is being addressed within the LGBT movement, and explored within the broader population as a means of understanding. For so long, the engagement with the trans community has been antagonistic, and shaming yet, now we are pushing ourselves culturally to reexamine gender identity, and how it's created or defined." --Tiq Milan


   11. Caroline Cossey
She's the bond girl that made headlines when it was revealed she was transgender in the early eighties. After being outed by a British tabloid, she's fought to marry and be legally recognized as a woman.

Cossey was born in Norfolk, England. She began to work as a model, under the name 'Tula', and became the first trans woman to appear in the Australian version of Harpers Bizarre, and Vogue. In 1981, she appeared as an extra bond girl, in the bond film,  'For Your Eyes Only', it was shortly after that the tabloid 'News of the World', outed her in a front page cover story.

Well before marriage equality, and the fight for trans people to be recognized as their authentic self, Cossey petitioned for changes in the British law  concerning transgender people, after her engagement to Count  Glauco Lasinio. The engagement didn't last, but for seven years Cossey continued her fight for recognition,  on behalf of the transgender community, eventually reaching the European Court of Human Rights.  In part to her efforts, eventually in 2004, The Gender Recognition Act was passed, giving transgender people in the United Kingdom means to change their legal sex. She ultimately married Canadian  businessman David Finch, in 1992. They currently live in Atlanta. In 1992, Caroline Cossey, released her second auto biography, My story, and today she continues to advocate, and bring awareness to the varied lives of transgender people.
" I have committed no crime. My only "sin" was to be born in the wrong body." --Caroline Cossey

15. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

Just call here Mama, because she is the last survivor of stonewall and one of the longest running advocates in our community. The beloved Stonewall veteran, has been fighting for the rights of transgender people for over 40 years. She is a living library of resource on our struggle for inclusion and equality. Her story and activism for transgender rights, has intersected with LGBT struggles for justice from the 60's to today.

Miss Major was born and raised in the south side of Chicago. She came out as her authentic self, in the mid 50's, at a time when contemporary terminology surrounding gender identities did not exist. In the late 60's, she moved to New York, and began associating with the Stonewall Inn patrons. Stonewall was one of the few 'Gay Bars' that would welcome transgender people, it was there at Stonewall that the trans women connected, and established a small band of a community. In 1969, Miss Major was in the Stonewall Inn, meeting with a girlfriend when the bar was raided by police. This raid by police ignited what is now known as the Stonewall riots. She was among the leaders of the riots, and was struck on the head by a police officer, and taken into custody. In 73' she attended the famous Gay rally in Central Park, where fellow Stonewall veteran Sylvia Rivera was booed by the white gay cis male audience.

In the late 70's she moved to California, and her advocacy work began, initially with food banks, and homeless shelters that catered to trans women of color, and trans people who had been incarcerated. She worked with several HIV/Aids organizations like, the Tenderloin Aids Resource Center, at the height of the Aids epidemic.

In 2003, Mama began her work with the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project, as the executive director. This year, our community rallied behind Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, as our community criticized the white washing of the film Stonewall, that depicted cis-gender, gay white men as the rioters of Stonewall. Griffin has frequently been critical of the LGBT movement for it's exclusion of transgender people's participation, and positions of leadership, particularly those of color, with low income, or who have been previously imprisoned.

Currently our community awaits the anticipated release of 'Major', a documentary film the life, and campaigns of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.

"We have to look out for one another because we're all we've got. The rest of the world really dosen't give a shit whether we live or die. And the thing is, when the dust settles, I want a whole bunch of transgender girls to stand up and say: I'm still fucking here." ---Miss Major Griffin Gracy

     Ten Faces To Watch For  In 2016 

Lucas Charlie Rose with his trans anthem 'This is What Trans Look Like', is now a rising star.
Scott T. Schofield made an appearance on the 'Bold & The Beautiful', becoming the first trans on a soap opera.
MzzAmirraO, along with Nicki Andro Productions, are earning praise in hip hop and will be kicking off with a tour in 2016.
Jake Graf, the director of the critically acclaimed film 'Brace', and an up coming web series.
Angelica Ross currently can be seen on Oprah's 'OWN' Network, and the upcoming story, 'Her Story'
Alexandra Billings, with the success of the series 'Transparent', is destined to be seen more of in the hit show, and others.
Juliana Huxtable, an artist, poet has become a favorite in the art scene, and herself a muse to several well known artist.
Delia Melody, an out spoken artist, and activist, who has been  inspiring a new 'genderation' of Latin trans advocates
Amyirah Scott, a model that has been rumored to be  an Atlanta Housewife.
The Secret Girls are the first American all transgender girl group, and with the growing trans music scene are destined to make an impact. 
TransMusePlanet's New Social Network For The Trans Community.
Let's Change The World Together.

We dedicate, and remember our 271 Kings & Queens who have lost their lives in the battle to live their authentic life. Each of these outstanding trans role models, along with every trans person that are on a quest to live life as their truest self, salute and honor you.
We say thank you for the light that you shown to the world when you were here, and igniting the flame of determination that will be carried in the hearts of every trans person on earth.
We will forever speak your name, and let it not be in vain.

Post a Comment