“Redefining Realness” Famous and Prominent Trans Women Of Color

March 19, 2014  |  
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MadameNoire is celebrating Women’s History Month, but this is not your typical women’s rights piece — focusing on feminists, womanists and wonder women who have changed the world. Actually, this piece is all those things, but it focuses on women who are often times forgotten, mistreated, endangered and often times not even acknowledged for their womanhood. Trans women are simply women — one day they will have the right to culturally identify as trans while simply being referred to as women. But in a world where genitalia questions are of the utmost concern, society should be focusing on trans women’s rights and violence many of these women have to face. This is especially for trans women of color, as many trans advocates would put it. This list highlights both famous and significant trans women of color who are paving the way for more trans women of color to come!

CeCe McDonald

McDonald is a definitive example of a trans woman of color who had to fight for her life. Instead of becoming a tragic victim of violence, she’s become a hero! She was pursued and attacked viciously by older white men and decided to fight back to save herself and her friends’ lives. She stabbed one of the men to death. She was quickly charged with second-degree murder and put in a men’s prison. She spent 41 month’s in prison before being released after serving time for self-defense from a racist, transphobic hate crime. Free CeCe is a documentary being made in honor of her.

Janet Mock

Mock has become one of the most famous trans advocates. She recently made headlines for once again correcting language used to describe trans women and transgendered people in general. Just ask Piers Morgan! He’ll probably deny it, but she had to check him about sensationalizing her transition — by playing into the once a boy now a girl notion — while promoting her book, “Redefining Realness.” She was NEVER a boy, and she had to correct him, using that language. She steered him toward issues impacting trans people, which are more important.

Laverne Cox

Cox is a superstar, that’s for sure. She plays a trans woman of color in prison on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”  But she uses her superstardom to advocate against the violence  trans women of color face. She’s spoken at numerous events, talk shows and TV news segments. In fact, she’s producing the documentary being made about CeCe McDonald called Free CeCe.

Isis King

King is part of a small fraction of trans women in the fashion or beauty industries. She broke ground by becoming the first trans woman to compete on “America’s Next Top Model.” In fact, Tyra Banks paid for King to receive her surgery post-ANTM. Since ANTM, she’s been walking many runways.

Andy Marra

Many LGBT people face some rejection from “loved ones.” But that’s everyone’s story. Marra’s transition is an example of family support and acceptance. Her Korean mother encouraged her to be herself. Then Marra was adopted by an American family, who also supported her. She made it her mission to find her family in Korea and she did. During the emotional reunion with her mother she told her, “I am not a boy. I am a girl. I am transgender.” Her mother responded with, “Mommy knew. I was waiting for you to tell me.” For more of her emotion journey, read here.


Cecilia Chung

She advocates for trans rights and health rights — interlinking both concerns in one. That’s not the only double duty she does! She also serves as San Francisco’s Health Commissioner, and is the senior strategist for Trans Law Center.

Ja’briel Walthour

She’s a trans woman of color advocating in the south. She launched a campaign last spring to publish a children’s book and fund surgery. “Apple of My Eye” is a book for children facing gender identity issues.


She’s a trans artist and activist who made sweet music and dedicated it to many trans women who have lost their lives for simply being themselves. She sung “There Will Come A Day” — and told the Huffington Post,

“It is high time we start looking at the murder of trans women as not a hate crime but a domestic violence issue. Furthermore, it’s beyond high time we start looking at the genocide of trans women of color, especially black trans women, as a violation of both civil and human rights.”

Monica Roberts

She’s known as the TransGriot — blogging and advocating for the rights of trans people and trans people of color. She works to educated the black community in particular on trans issues.

Lea T

Like Isis King, she exists within the fashion world as one of the few trans models. She is known as the face of Givenchy — a fashion designer. She speaks about “trying to be herself” in this Benetton video.

Kim Coco Iwamoto

She’s truly a trans first! As the commissioner of Hawaii Civil Rights Commission, she was the first transgendered person to be in a high ranking US official position, at the time in 2006. She was reelected in 2010 — with a 25% improvement in votes.

Carmen Carrera

She appeared on the ABC hit show, “What Would You Do?” — playing a waitress who tells a curious customer about her transition. The customer berates her and other customers come to her defense.

Carrera is known for being a reality star — appearing on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and its spin-off, “Drag Race U.”


Nong Ariyaphon Southiphong

She competed on Project Runway’s eight season as Andy South, a gay man. She told Logo, she began her transition before the show though, “What people don’t know is that I actually started my transition before ‘Project Runway,’ [and] I had stopped right before I went to New York…it just would’ve complicated a lot of things.” She continued, “What I realized in the past two years, after being on television, was that I was still missing something, and that was really living in the body I wanted. I am blessed to be so accepted and welcomed just the way I am. May that love flow through me and onto many others. Live in love for the world needs it.”

Trudie Jackson

Jackson is part of a community few people know exist — trans Native American women. She’s the pageant director of the Miss Indian Transgender Competition. She’s definitely your quintessential advocate — focused on issues impacting trans and Native American rights.

Sylvia Rivera

Known as a civil rights pioneer, she’s a veteran of the Stonewall uprising. A New Yorker her whole life, she lost both parents to abandonment and death, but was raised by her grandmother until she was raised by the streets for being herself at a young age. She was a pioneer in not only fighting for trans right, but rights for people of color and against poverty. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is named in honor of her.

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