15 Transgender Stars Who Embraced Their Identities, Leading to History-Making Success
All of us take time as we are growing up to discover who we are. But some people have a bigger transformation to endure once they realize that they are transgender or non-binary. Studies have found that transgender people are overall much happier after transitioning. Accepting your identity can have its ups and downs, but doing so with pride can also lead to success — as nothing is more important than being your true self.
At Bright Side, we know that embracing your identity is always a journey, and we are grateful to these celebs who inspire us.
1. MJ Rodriguez
MJ Rodriguez was already an actor when she realized she was transgender, in fact, it was a character that helped her discover it! She transitioned and has found huge success since, especially in her role as Blanca on FX’s Pose. But MJ also got the chance to make history, as she was the first trans actor nominated for a leading actor Emmy with a nomination for lead drama actress, and the first trans actor to win a Golden Globe.
MJ knows the huge significance of her win. She said: “This is the door that is going to open the door for many more young talented individuals. They will see that it is more than possible.”
2. Elliot Page
Elliot Page got his start in movies when he was young, but struggled with his identity for a while. In 2020, he came out as transgender, sharing his “joy” to have gotten to this moment and “gratitude” for people who have supported him in a statement on Instagram.
Elliot currently stars on The Umbrella Academy on Netflix, and it was revealed that in season 3, their character would transition too. This is potentially the first time that an actor’s actual transition will be reflected in their on-screen work. He said that coming out has made him a better person in many facets of his life.
3. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox got her start way back in 2013 with her role in Orange is the New Black. She has starred in many TV shows since. She became the first trans person to be nominated for an Emmy in any acting category when she was nominated for her work on Orange is the New Black.
She said, “None of this has ever been about me. I’ve been very clear from the beginning that my journey has been bigger than me.” She added, “There’s a part of me that just feels really proud that I got to be the first in a lot of ways, but that I’m not the last.” She truly paved the way for many others to follow.
4. Hunter Schafer
Hunter Schafer is young, but has already found huge success, first as a model, and then as the lead character Jules on HBO’s Euphoria. As a trans woman, she said it was nice to play a character who is complex and isn’t just dealing with their gender. Hunter even worked with the show’s creator to make her character’s experience as real as possible.
Hunter said that it’s “really exciting to me, because that story will be accessible.” When she was a teen, finding representation when it came to people with her experiences online was important to her, and now she gets to be that for the younger generation.
5. Sam Smith
Singer Sam Smith shared in 2019 that they have always felt like they had a struggle going on in their body and mind, and listening to conversations about being non-binary made them realize that that was who they were. Smith has sold over 33 million albums worldwide and won 4 Grammys, 3 Brit Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar — showing that whatever your identity, if you are true to yourself you can achieve anything.
6. Yasmin Finney
Yasmin Finney shot to fame this year in her role as Elle in the popular Netflix show Heartstopper. Yasmin says of her character: “It’s so beautiful to see a trans story on television that’s normalized.” Finney began documenting her experiences as a young trans woman in Manchester, UK, on TikTok and gained thousands of followers and millions of views. She credits this with realizing that there was a place in the entertainment industry for her.
After being bullied in high school and coming out as transgender, all before becoming famous, Yasmin has grown up a lot recently. She says, “I’ve started to embrace who I am. I don’t want to be perfect. I just want to be me, authentically.”
7. Jamie Clayton
Jamie Clayton had a star-making turn in the sci-fi series Sense8, where she played the character Nomi, who is one of 8 people who suddenly become linked mentally. She has since starred in many other shows, including The L Word: Generation Q, in which she plays a woman who is not trans — an important step for the actor.
8. Kim Petras
Kim Petras wanted to be a pop star since she was a child in Germany, and moved to Los Angeles with just a dream and $550. She shot to fame in 2017 when her debut single topped Spotify’s Global Viral Top 50 — and the music video even featured Paris Hilton! But Petras is quick to say that she wasn’t discovered: “I discovered myself.” She is now smashing records everywhere, as the first openly transgender performer to sing at the VMAs and at the MTV Europe Music Awards.
9. Janet Mock
Janet Mock is a writer, and she is used to making history with her success by now. First, she was the first ever transgender woman of color hired as a writer on a TV series, when she was hired on Pose. Then, she was a trailblazer again when she signed a 3-year deal with Netflix, making her the first black transgender woman to achieve an overall deal with a major studio.
As a young person, there weren’t really affirming images in the media that showed her experience, which is why she decided to make them. She got into writing to “tell the truth. In that sense, my career, for me, really started when I stepped forward and told my own story,” Mock shared.
10. Indya Moore
Indya Moore is a trans and non-binary actor and model, and some of their stories of growing up with this identity influenced the stories of their character, Angel, on FX’s Pose. Indya made history as the first transgender model in history to pose for the cover of Elle magazine.
11. Asia Kate Dillon
Asia Kate Dillon made history playing the first major non-binary character on television in the hit TV show Billions. They said that the role has changed their life by showing them how to live in their freedom, but it has also changed other people’s lives. Young people come up to Asia to tell them, “I saw Taylor on TV, and I understood something about myself, and I felt less alone.”
12. Demi Lovato
We all know Demi Lovato as a complete pop superstar. But in 2021, Demi announced that they are non-binary and use they/them pronouns, a decision they came to after a lot of self-reflective work. They said they are still learning, but they came out to help those who can’t share who they are with their loved ones. “Please keep living in your truths & know I am sending so much love your way,” the singer said.
13. Jonathan Van Ness
Jonathan Van Ness, or JVN as they are sometimes called, won our hearts as the grooming expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye. Jonathan, who is non-binary, has since published a book, hosted a podcast, and wowed on red carpets. But they also smashed a record as the first non-female solo cover star for Cosmopolitan UK in 35 years.
14. Josie Totah
Josie Totah had already acted in many popular TV shows before her transition, which she announced in 2018. She explained that this wasn’t a choice she made, but something she had always known about herself since she was a kid: “I always knew on some level that I was female.”
She then played a transgender girl in the Saved By The Bell reboot for Peacock. She said she was humbled to play a trans character and aimed for the story to normalize being trans in high school, saying that there is so much more to her than just her gender.
15. Alexandra Billings
Alexandra Billings became the first transgender person to play a transgender character when she acted in Romy and Michelle: In The Beginning in 2005. Since then, she has appeared as trans characters on many TV shows. She has made history on stage as well as on-screen, as the first openly trans actor to star in the musical Wicked.
Who inspired you to embrace your personality? What advice would you give your younger self? Let us know in the comments.