10 Transgender Activists of the Past and Present

Marsha P. Johnson

There’s no way anyone can talk about transgender activists and not mention the larger than life Marsha Johnson. A black transgender woman, she is perhaps one of the most prominent figures in LGBTQ+ history, and is often credited

with throwing the first brick at the 1969 Stonewall Riots that catalyzed the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. In reality, no one knows who threw the first brick, but regardless the notion represents the absolute powerhouse she was at the beginning of the movement. She founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with Sylvia Rivera to provide for homeless LGBTQ youth, especially transgender people.

Fun Fact: The P. in her name stands for “Pay it no mind.”


Sylvia Rivera


Sylvia Rivera, a trans woman of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent, worked with and was essentially mentored by Marsha P. Johnson after they met in 1963. She was once rumored to have thrown the first Molotov cocktail at the Stonewall Riots, but denied that in a 2001 interview, saying she instead threw the second. She was a very prominent activist for the trans community, when even (cis) gay rights activists wanted to deny the presence of trans people in the movement.


Today, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project continues her work to defend transgender people.


Janet Mock

Janet Mock is a black transgender woman and a modern activist, publicly coming out in a Marie Claire article in 2011.


She had spent more than five years as an editor at People magazine, leaving after signing her debut book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, a New York Times Bestseller.


She is a writer, director and producer on the FX series Pose, and her directing of the episode “Love Is the Message” made her the first transgender woman of color to write and direct a television episode.


Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox’s first claim to fame was from her role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix original series, Orange Is The New Black, and became the first transgender person ever nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award, and the first of many firsts for the actress and activist.


Her makeover television series TRANSform Me made her the first Black trans woman to produce and star in her own show, and she was the first trans person to win a Daytime Emmy for her series Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word.


She is also the executive producer for the Netflix documentary Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen.


Imara Jones

Imara Jones is a Black trans woman and a prominent journalist. She is the founder of TransLash Media, which works to shift the hostility away from trans people in the United States. She runs the TransLash podcast, as well as The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality, which is a limited, investigative podcast series about the organized movement against trans people. She has been featured in mainstream media outlets such as The Guardian, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR.




Gavin Grimm


Gavin Grimm is a 22 year old trans man who recently gained notoriety by suing his school board in Gloucester County, Virginia, for ongoing discrimination, including a requirement that he use an entirely separate restroom, and refusing to change his gender on his transcript, despite transitioning medically, socially and legally. His case was picked up by the ACLU, and after six years of litigation he was ultimately awarded 1.3 million dollars by the school board in August of 2021.







Oliver Snow

Oliver Snow is a prominent transgender Tiktoker, with 76,000+ followers on one of his accounts (@reverendoliversnow). A number of his tiktoks feature life in Appalachia, especially for the LGBTQ+ community, his own experiences with the gender roles in the region, and overall he is very public about his life as a trans man. One of his largest motivations is to show trans youth that they can live past 30.





Sarah McBride

Sarah McBride is a trans woman and formerly the press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, now serving as a Delaware state senator. Her election made her the first transgender person in the nation to hold a state senatorial seat, and the highest ranking transgender elected official. She was also the first transgender person to speak at the Democratic National Convention when she delivered a speech there in 2016.



Jacob Tobia


Jacob Tobia, a genderqueer person, first garnered attention when they were interviewed by Laverne Cox on The T Word, but they may be more well known known for recently voicing the character Double Trouble, a shapeshifting, nonbinary villain on the Netflix series She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Outside of that, though, they have written their own memoir, Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story.


They have appeared in a number of mainstream media outlets, worked with a variety of LGBTQ+ organizations and have been featured in Forbes 30 Under 30 and the Out100.


Celia Daniels


Celia is an Asian Indian trans women of color who is an entrepreneur, public speaker, activist, motivator, musician, artist, photographer and a filmmaker. Growing up as a lonely closeted kid from Southern India with stigma, discrimination and gender dysphoria, she writes and speaks passionately about her struggles and challenges she faced in her family, work, school and community both in US and India.


Celia has over 20+ years of demonstrated success in managing, growing and spearheading strategic initiatives for fortune 100 companies in Technology, Media, Healthcare and Life sciences.

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