Scroll To Top

Meet the 11 Inspiring Subjects of The Trans List

Meet the 11 Inspiring Subjects of 'The Trans List'

Meet the 11 Inspiring Subjects of 'The Trans List'

Trans writers, activists, actors, policy workers, students, veterans, and models share their powerful stories and provide an encouraging message for transgender Americans.


On Tuesday, just in time for Transgender Awareness Week, HBO released its trailer for The Trans List. As the latest installment of TheList series, the documentary follows in the footsteps of The Out List, The Black List, The Women's List, and The Latino List, continuing the theme of giving a much-needed platform to marginalized voices.

This List couldn’t come at a more poignant time, with the futures of transgender Americans precariously waiting in the shadow of a possibly extremely regressive Trump administration.

In order to deepen your viewing experience, take a brief look into the lives of each of the film’s 11 subjects, as well as one of its producers, and learn about the groundbreaking work that earned each of them a spot on the List, which premieres December 5 on HBO.

Janet Mock, storyteller

Trans author, journalist, television host and advocate Janet Mock has blazed trails for trans women in media and serves as the film’s interviewer. Her memoir, Redefining Realness, landed Mock on the New York Times bestsellers list in 2014. She’s worked as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight, a contributing editor for Marie Claire, a host for her own MSNBC talk show, So POPular!, and as an executive producer for the forthcoming MSNBC original series Beyond My Body, to be released in 2017.

If you aren’t familiar with her work, check out the profile she wrote for The Advocate’s February cover story on Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson. Her portrait of Mckesson illuminates a side of his most haven’t had the opportunity to witness — the chipper, ebullient young man who locks eyes with cute boys on the street, proclaiming love at first sight — as well as the hardworking, outspoken activist changing the face of black activism.

Laverne Cox, trans celebrity extraordinaire

Y’all already know this beautiful soul. Laverne Cox is bae. Little more needs to be said on the subject.

From Orange Is the New Black fame, Cox jumped into the spotlight as the first openly trans woman to receive a daytime Emmy for her MTV/Logo documentary Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word. Since her role as OITNB’s trans inmate Sophia Burset, which made her the first trans woman of color in a leading role on mainstream television, Cox has graced the cover of TIME magazine, received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series — another first for trans women — appeared on The Mindy Project, MTV’s Faking It, and Bravo’s Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce. She’s spoken at universities and major events around the country, and she’s set to co-star alongside Katherine Heigl and Steven Pasquale in the upcoming CBS legal drama Doubt. According to The Washington Blade, this makes her the “first transgender actress to play a transgender series regular character on broadcast television.”

As I said, Laverne Cox is bae.

Kylar Broadus, trans rights arbiter

Kylar Broadus, senior public policy counsel for the National LGBTQ Task Force and director of its Transgender Civil Rights Project, is a name to know — especially now that our president-elect is a lunatic who might be in charge of appointing the supreme court judge to fill out SCOTUS for next year’s Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, a possible landmark case for transgender American rights.

A professor of law at Lincoln University of Missouri for 20 years, Broadus was the first openly transgender person to testify before the U.S. Senate, which he undertook to speak out in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. First published in the in-depth book on the transgender civil rights movement, Transgender Rights, Broadus’s essay, “The Evolution of Employment Discrimination Protection for Transgender People,” has been included in women’s studies, cultural diversity and law curricula to deepen understanding of trans experiences and the enduring fight for equality.

In the coming years, expect some important work from Broadus. Check out his congressional testimony below.

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, the baddest trans activist you know

A living historical monument to queer culture, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy has been an activist for the queer communities since before most of us knew what the word queer meant. A veteran of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, the 1971 Attica Prison uprising, the AIDS epidemic, and the trying times in-between, Griffin-Gracy’s place in the documentary signifies an indomitable force in the queer community. We’re blessed to still have her around, and I’m personally on the edge of my seat waiting for more of her words of wisdom.

Can’t wait until Dec. 5 to dive in? Check out the documentary Major!, directed and produced by Annalise Ophelian with StormMiguel Florez as co-producer and editor, peruse this profile of her from the Bay Area Reporter, or read about her and activists like her in trans historian Susan Stryker’s Transgender History.

Amos Mac, queer art connoisseur

LA-based photographer, producer, publisher and OUT-declared trans-heartthrob, Amos Mac shares his story in The Trans List documentary as well. Mac cofounded and publishes the fantastic quarterly Original Plumbing, and collaborates with artists across many diverse mediums to produce a quality product worth ordering the old fashion way.

Recently, Mac assistant-produced season two of VICELAND’S Gaycation, the amazing queer travel series featuring Ellen Page and Ian Daniel. He’s been named in the OUT100, Trans 100, and as one of “10 Transgender Artists Who Are Changing The Landscape Of Contemporary Art” by Huffington Post, and he's only in his thirties!

Caroline Cossey, 20th century sex bomb

Caroline “Tula” Cossey has had a more successful modeling career than many cis women. The first transgender woman to appear on the cover of Playboy, Cossey made her acting debut, after a decade of successful modeling, as an uncredited Bond girl in the 1981 For Your Eyes Only, starring Roger Moore. Her role was officially titled “Girl at the Pool,” but she was big enough to cause some waves in the media.

As the movie was released, Cossey was outed by a particularly nasty article in the shameless British tabloid News of the World. The headline of her exposé ran as “James Bond’s Girl Was a Boy.” Not even clever, guys.

Post-tabloid conundrum, Cossey found herself as one of the few mainstream trans role models for trans women in the '80s and '90s, and embraced her position with the production of two memoirs — Tula: I am a Woman in 1982, and Tula: My Story in 1991.

In a 2015 interview with Playboy, Cossey told the magazine, “I feel like I was probably so many years too early.” And while she’s probably right, Cossey inspired trans women everywhere, and her place in The List is absolutely earned.

Buck Angel, 21st century sex bomb

Adult film producer, activist, and educator Buck Angel has worked overtime to overcome the stigma trans men face for embracing their identities. He’s spoken at Yale, Cornell, and many other universities to bring his message to the world.

Angel was awarded the Feminist Porn Award for Boundary Breaker of the year in 2008, received the award again in 2012 for his film Sexing the Transman XXX, and was named the Transsexual Performer of the Year by Adult Video News in 2007.

On the Board of Directors for the Woodhull Feedom Foundation, Angel found fierce company in the organization’s mission to “affirm sexual freedom as a fundamental right.” He was the keynote speaker during the National Leather Association’s 2013 Beyond Vanilla event, which seeks to offer educational, entertaining and uplifting spaces for those “beyond vanilla.”

Nicole Maines, trans youth activist

Nicole Maines came into the public eye in late 2015, when her story about growing up as a gender nonconforming identical twin caught the eye of major news outlets across the nation. Her profile in The Washington Post, “Becoming Nicole” — which excerpts from Pulitzer Prize winning Post reporter Amy Ellis Nut’s book on the twins, titled Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of An American Family — delves into how at age 2, Nicole knew she was meant to live life as a girl.

Since her entry into the public consciousness, Nicole has spoken out against transphobic bathroom legislation across the country, successfully sued her school district in Maine for bathroom access, and helped shape the legal battle for transgender people across the country. She currently studies at the University of Maine while continuing as a voice of reason in the debate for transgender rights.

Check out her amazing TED Talk, and order a copy of Nut’s book for more of Nicole.

Alok Vaid-Menon, “I think the goal is precisely to become a disappointment to our parents.”

I first read about Alok Vaid-Menon in the pages of Cakeboy, the uber-chic, Brooklyn-based queer magazine run by editor Sean Santiago. With Janani Balasubramanian, Vaid-Menon runs DarkMatter, a self-described performance art duo based in NYC. They regularly perform at venues and festivals across the city, and their art is truly, deeply queer. Vaid-Menon’s conception of gender describes one of the most fluid, ever-changing constructions of identity, and can be succinctly defined by this quick exchange in an interview the duo held with Guernica magazine:

Guernica: So much of your work satirizes the white male cis patriarchy. But here I am, a white cis man, interviewing you. I don’t know what that means, but I want to start by acknowledging that.

Alok Vaid-Menon: Hopefully, by the end of this interview, we will help you recognize that you’re not cis.

Guernica: Please do.

Alok Vaid-Menon: I don’t believe in men. I’ve never met a man in my life.

*slow claps*  

Bamby Salcedo, our very own miracle

A survivor of juvenile and adult incarceration, drug addiction, sexual and physical abuse, and the rough streets of Guadalajara, Bamby Salcedo has rallied the trans Latinx community to fight for noble causes, such as immigration reform, HIV education, and the humane treatment of trans men and women held in detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

An HIV-positive icon, Salcedo founded the Trans-Latin@ Coalition and the Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness, both of which work to better the lives of trans people by providing assistance in the form of emergency rental assistance, food vouchers, transportation vouchers, and case managers that assist with a variety of services.

In an interview with Plus, by which she was named number 20 of "Our Most Amazing HIV-Positive People of 2016," Salcedo described her path to her position as a social justice and public health worker.

“I was diagnosed in the early stages of HIV/AIDS,” she told David Atravia. “Back then, being diagnosed was a death sentence. I’ve had struggle — at the beginning, in a very negative way. But over time, because there have been people along the way that guided me and supported me, being HIV-positive has turned into something that has empowered me to be who I am and do what I can to support others who may be struggling.”

It’s true, what she says: “I’m a miracle. Yo soy un milagro. I’m not supposed to be here.” We’re happy you are, Bamby, and we thank you for all that you do. Take a look at the trailer for Transvisible: Bamby’s Story, the documentary by Dante Alencastre that profiles this pioneering woman’s work.

Shane Ortega,legal, political, and literal soldier

One of the first openly transgender people to serve in the military, Shane Ortega opened doors for trans people across the country and serves as a role model for many. He’s served three tours in combat: "Two in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. Two as a Marine and one in the Army. Two as a woman and one as a man," he told The Washington Post in 2015, coming in at a total of 11 years of service.

He knew early on, at 5 years old, that something wasn’t right. His grandmother, a member of the Iriquoi and Cherokee tribes, thought he was two-spirit when he was young, according to The Heights. But after a lifetime of soul searching, Ortega now defines himself as a queer, pansexual, transgender man, and was the face behind the political and legislative movement to lift the ban on transgender citizens serving in the military that found success in June.

For a longer read on Ortega, head over to Sunnivie Bridum’s in-depth story in The Advocate, which took place before the ban was lifted and during the beginning of Ortega’s fight to expand the rights of trans Americans.

Caitlyn Jenner, trans Olympian and reality television star

An expository paragraph would be written in vain here, I’m afraid. Caitlyn Jenner’s story has covered tabloids, newspapers, magazines, and television screens since she announced her transition in June of 2015.

Despite the polemics regarding her status and beliefs, Jenner is one of the most talked about transgender celebrities in America, and like it or not, she deserves a place to tell her story, too. Coming out as transgender at 65 means 65 years of confusion, which began making its way to the forefront of Jenner’s mind when she was 10 or 11, according to her extensive interview with Dawn Ennis. Though it certainly hasn't been tough like Miss Major Griffin-Gracy's, Jenner's life likely hasn't the never-ending joyride one associates with a woman of her position.

Talk about privilege, about conservative values, and about hypocritical beliefs all you like — because it's valid discussion — but Caitlyn Jenner is still a unique trans woman with a story only she can tell. Give it an ear.

Check out the trailer for The Trans List below, and make sure to tune in to HBO on December 5 to catch even more of these trans icons' stories.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

author avatar

Ian Martella