Entertainment

Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono and other transgender activists who've made a mark

From several high-profile celebrities to a reference from the U.S. president in a major policy speech, transgender issues are increasingly coming to the forefront in pop culture and media. Here are nine prominent transgender people who are bringing attention to their issues.
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      From several high-profile celebrities to a reference from the U.S. president in a major policy speech, transgender issues are increasingly coming to the forefront in pop culture and media.

      Bruce Jenner, the former Olympic track and field star, is the latest U.S. celebrity to announce a sex change. He confirmed in an ABC 20/20 interview that he is transitioning to female, telling Diane Sawyer, "Yes, for all intents and purposes, I'm a woman."

      Earlier this year, Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to say the word transgender during a State of the Union address, CNN reported, as he called for the protection of individuals of any sexual orientation. 

      "That's why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We do these things not only because they're right, but because they make us safer."

      Here are eight other prominent people who have helped raise public awareness of transgender issues. 

      Laverne Cox

      Laverne Cox is a critically acclaimed American actress perhaps best known for her role as an incarcerated trans woman on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black

      An advocate and activist, Cox became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine last year. 

      "Honestly, trans people are the most courageous and resilient people I know," Cox told the CBC's Wendy Mesley, in an interview on The National"I think anyone who had the audacity to be themselves should be celebrated and not discriminated against."

      Jenna Talackova

      The Canadian beauty queen made international headlines in 2012 when she was initially removed from the Miss Universe contest because she was transgender.

      Jenna Talackova had already made the Miss Universe Canada final before pageant organizers disqualified her on the basis she had to be a 'naturally born' female.

      Talackova had already made the Miss Universe Canada final before the U.S. pageant organizers disqualified her on the basis she had to be a "naturally born" female.

      She objected to the ban and sought to overturn the decision. Pageant owner Donald Trump finally stepped in and overruled the decision before the matter went to court.

      ​Laura Jane Grace

      The singer in Florida punk band Against Me! announced she was transgender during a Rolling Stone interview in 2012. The band released its sixth studio album Transgender Dysphoria Blues last year. 

      "This record is definitely my refuge, in a lot of ways," Grace said when it was released.

      "I hope it opens their minds," she said. "That's kind of the point of doing interviews and being visibily trans ... to make that something that's commonplace and make it a voice that's represented." 

      Chelsea Manning

      The U.S. Army private who leaked thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks disclosed in 2013 at her court martial that she had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

      Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley, is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for sending more than 700,000 secret military and State Department documents to the anti-secrecy website while working as an intelligence analyst.

      Chelsea Manning launched a lawsuit last year against the U.S. Defence Department to get hormone therapy and other treatment while serving her sentence.

      Manning launched a lawsuit last year against the U.S. Defence Department to get hormone therapy and other treatment while serving her sentence. 

      Marci Bowers

      Dr. Marci Bowers is a transgender woman who is also hailed as a pioneer in gender transition surgery. 

      "Gender identity is a core expression of who we are as individuals, and it's nothing to be afraid of," she told CBS News last year. "People have normal wishes, hopes, dreams, and allowing a person to be who they are helps them achieve those dreams."

      Lana Wachowski

      Lana Wachowski became the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender, the Huffington Post reported in 2012. 

      The critically acclaimed director from the Matrix series revealed painful memories from her struggle with identity during a speech while accepting a visibility award from Human Rights Campaign. She ended by saying she hoped to be an example for others.

      "I am here because when I was young, I wanted very badly to be a writer, I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I couldn't find anyone like me in the world and it felt like my dreams were foreclosed simply because my gender was less typical than others," she said. 

      Chaz Bono

      Chaz Bono, the only child of entertainers Sonny and Cher, is an activist and author.

      Chaz Bono, the only child of entertainers Sonny and Cher, is an activist and author.

      His 2011 book Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man details a 40-year struggle to "match his gender identity with his physical body and his transformation from female to male," according to his website. 

      "Ever since my first dose of testosterone, I have never felt so whole, so complete so happy in my life," he said in the book. "And this triumph is what transition is all about."

      Renée Richards

      Renée Richards, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1975, made international headlines when she began competing in women's tennis, drawing attention to the rights of transgender athletes.

      She successfully fought for her right to compete as a woman in professional tennis, becoming the first transgender athlete to play in the U.S. Open.