Fashion Industry Embraces Diversity

By Sabrina Samone

The message is that there is beauty in difference and in the unexpected; indeed there is beauty in what was once considered the opposite. Contrary to what we have witnessed in the past month in American politics; Trump’s Tweets against Transgender people and his most recent support and defense of hate groups like the KKK, and Nazi’s, the fashion industry is the one medium, unlike film and music, that is giving a voice to diversity.

New Zealand Fashion Week is just days away and diversity is the theme. There is a call from big name Kiwi designers for diversity at this year’s model casting calls.¹ “This year we are getting requests from designers like Zambesi and Huffer for diversity, which is amazing,” Andrea Plowright from 62 Models told says. “Many fashion-forward designers want to see models who are Asian, black, Indian, transgender, mature etc., which I think is fantastic! There are no limits and no boundaries, which is wonderful to see and be involved in. We live in a global world and we all want to see equality and fairness.”

”If there is a star of this trend it will be in the form of beautiful transgender model Manahou Mackay, 18, who is picked to light up the catwalk for a number of designers.“  Fashion Week will be her moment to break into the industry big time,” said Plowright. In March, New York-based Australian transgender supermodel Andreja Pejic walked for Smith & Caughey’s in Auckland and left an impression on Mackay. “It was a major modelling moment for me meeting Andreja, she is an inspiration to me in so many ways,” Mackay said. “I’d love to use modelling as a way to travel and see the world. I’d also like to help people view transgender people as just normal. “Transgender is not the classic porn-star Barbie and not the drag-queen look. We’re just normal humans. And we do not need to be sexualized to be understood and accepted.”

Lauri Watt and Manahou MacKay.  New Zealand Fashion Week founder and director Dame Pieter Stewart says, “Long gone are the days where models are typecast to fit a certain, now-outdated standard. They are as unique as the many different designers and their collections showcased at the event. Fashion is about variety and diversity, and New Zealand Fashion Week is the platform that encompasses all of this.” Other models who break the traditional look this year could include Fiona Xu, who has shot for Harman Grubisa and Kate Sylvester; Sophia Frankish, a universal favorite; Lincoln Van Vught; Grace Huan, who is also a dancer; Lauri Watt and Horace Lee.

Recently at a New York Fashion show, Reshma Quereshi. A 19-year-old Indian woman whose vile excuse for a brother-in-law, flung acid in her face two years ago. She bears the scars, and they’re severe (she lost one eye), but she is beautiful, not least because of her strong spirit, and she became the start of the show.

Quereshi’s presence was guaranteed to secure headlines for the Mumbai-based designer Archana Kochhar, as well as help spread awareness about these venal cowardly attacks which happen more often than they should. But it also reflected a growing acceptance, in the Fashion industry and beyond, for a much broader definition of what’s considered beautiful today.

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Instagram archanakochharofficial

The production company that staged Kochhar’s show, FTL Moda, aims to introduce major diversity to the runway. Last season they cast Brisbane model Madeline Stuart, who has Down syndrome, in her second NYFW show. She looked wonderful.

On the catwalks of the U.K., the tide may slowly be turning on what once was considered taboo in high fashion; women sizes 12 and up.

Model and body positivity campaigner Ashley Graham has debuted her own lingerie range at New York Fashion Week, a collection created for the sizes persistently ignored by designers.

As well as showcasing covetable undies, she brought a much-needed change of pace to the models we usually see on the catwalk. “Every woman in the show has a completely different shape and we wanted to show diversity of shape and ethnicity and that’s what curvy women are,” she told Time Magazine.

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Models on the catwalk for London’s Plus Size Fashion Week UK

In recent years there’s been an explosion of transgender models hitting the runways of the world. The struggle, like various occupations in society has been a hard fight, but unlike politics, film and music, the closet doors of the fashion world has been kicked down possibly to the last under-represented group, transgender. Many have reached what was once called super model status; Lea T, Ines-Loan Rau, Valentijn De Hingh, Laith Ashley, Aydian Dowling, and Andreja Pejic to name a few.² The most recent and most diverse among the growing list of transgender models, is plus-size model Shay Neary.

Shay_neary

The inclusive fashion brand Coverstory has made history this year,  by casting the first plus-size transgender model Shay Neary in its latest campaign. Coverstory has a history of showcasing a diverse range of models of various races and sizes, but with this latest casting the brand identified Neary as representing a sector of its customer base that needed to be seen.

When speaking with Refinery29, Neary³ reflected on how difficult it was for her to find a designer to dress her, and the trend of new, diverse models always seeming to be photographed naked.

“Oh my god, the truest statement ever. I’ve done maybe eight to 10 naked shoots. I’m a new trans-plus model to the scene, but I have yet to find any designer willing to actually dress me for a shoot or book me an actual high-profile gig. They’re not willing to get you clothes. They’re not willing to find a designer to get you clothes for a shoot. [Photographers say] ‘We’re not gonna hide your body, we want your raw body.’ Hmm, how about [designing] some clothing for my ‘raw body’?

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While representation, and equality has been fought in every aspect of trans lives, and careers, it’s the fashion industry that maybe setting the example of answering that call. For years transgender advocates have demanded, along with all minorities and feminist groups, to represent a broader diversity of consumers.  Though representation is far from equal, the fashion industry is leaps and bounds ahead of careers in business, politics, music and film.

This week America was rocked by the tragic death of a peaceful protester in Charlottesville, VA. While America has a conversation on tolerance and equality, the fashion industry may hold a clue to how to achieve that. Visibility, has been the mantra of the modern trans person. Visibility and representation in print, film,  and where we shop does matter. Representation is the constant subliminal message that there are other people like me, yet it’s also a reminder that everyone who isn’t like me, matter and exist as well.

Conversations on equality cannot take place, until we have completed the conversation on equal representation of all colors, sizes, genders, and sexualities. It’s when we can grow up in a society that shows truly, that people are beautiful and matter that we can finally see an end to transphobia, racism and the differences that separate us.

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  1.  New Zealand Fashion Week is Aug. 28th- Sept. 3 2017
  2. 50 Years of Transgender Models
  3. Refinery 29’s Story of Plus Size Transgender Model, Shay Neary
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Lessons of Leadership: A Review of TRANS/ACTIVE

Lynnea Urania Stuart

 

Committees are already gathering worldwide.  Their members, planning the next International Transgender Day of Remembrance (ITDOR, or simply, TDOR), take various approaches to what has become the international trans community’s most sacred event.  For planners and speakers, the new paperback, TRANS/ACTIVE: A Biography of Gwendolyn Ann Smith should be required reading.

It should not only be required for them, it’s a book that should be read by every trans activist and trans ally because it describes keys to success in securing human rights for a people for whom human rights was considered laughable for too long.  In a year when religious Dominionist forces seek to snuff out and erase the memory of a minority of minorities, it’s time to revisit what made the Day of Remembrance and trans activism as a whole so vital.

The story of Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the founder of the Day of Remembrance, and known by many of us simply as “Gwen”, is more than a transition story.  Unlike most of publications of that genre, this story tells the unfolding of a life of activism and a determination to fight the prevailing erasure through the preservation of memory.

Her approach to challenging others is clever and genteel, pointed and philosophical.  The reader may find the biography laced with quotes like:

 

“If all you’ve ever known of transpeople are late-night comedian jokes and fear-mongering about bathrooms, what would you think of transpeople?  Instead, let’s put an actual transperson in the room, and challenge those misconceptions.1

 

The author, Sophia Cecilia Leveque, pursued writing this biography after a synchronous “accident”.  It began with a Wikipedia edit-a-thon hosted by the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University, where participants wrote about prominent members of underrepresented communities.  She chose Gwendolyn Ann Smith because the name “Gwendolyn” had enchanted her through other powerful writers who shared that name.  But when needing to reference her Wikipedia page, she found too little online biographical information.2

Ms. Leveque is a young writer of 23 years, competent, but not yet seasoned.  She recently graduated and now pursues a Master’s degree.3 She approaches the story in gonzo style, building upon personal interviews.  Her approach reveals a genuine candor, but at times seems apologetic:

 

“The clock struck five and I called.  Two rings and she answered, sounding breathless.  Was it possible she was nervous too?  Her voice was smooth, very much like her writing. She made a few jokes to put me at ease and said she couldn’t believe someone wanted to interview her.  I told her I couldn’t believe someone hadn’t already.  I could hear myself talking too fast, trying to fit as much into one interview as I could, in case she decided she didn’t want to have another call.  I asked many invasive questions without meaning to, but the hour flew by.4

 

Ms. Leveque succeeded in presenting a multi-dimensional activist.  Gwen Smith may be known best as the founder of the Day of Remembrance, but her activism began to blossom by tackling anti-transgender bias manifest in a ban on anything transgender by America On Line (AOL).  Gwen not only succeeded but continued to administer an online chat within the Gay and Lesbian Community Forum which became Transgender Community Forum, then The Gazebo..  Other online platforms would follow the lead of AOL.5

The importance of this contribution, too often overlooked, cannot be overestimated.  The Internet has been the most potent medium that brought together the modern trans community.  Much of today’s community may be found on online services like Facebook, Twitter, and GooglePlus; in fact today we find more transpeople socializing online than in support groups who meet at brick-and-mortar locations like liberal churches, LGBT centers, private offices, and gay bars.

The original connection between Rita Hester and the Day of Remembrance has long been well documented.6 But the death of Chanelle Pickett and its connection to the same has had far less billing, thought emphasized in TRANS/ACTIVE.  Both transwomen “of color” died in proximity to one another under similar circumstances but scarcely anyone connected them.  Gwen recognized this lacuna in what seemed like a milieu of collective amnesia, a sad internal failure deserving of indictment:

 

“Gwen was not only incredulous; she was angry.  These 2 cases were eerily similar and no one was making a connection between them_ there was simply no community memory.”7

 

This level of insight makes Gwen’s story so compelling.  It’s precisely this realization that has enabled many transpeople to rise up out of the underground, onto the streets and into the halls of government.  It’s a realization that comes from reserving the right to question why things are so; and also to look for ways to make change happen, however crazy creative ideas leading to solutions may initially appear.  This alone, apart from anything else, makes Gwen an example for activists everywhere.

The book, however, isn’t free from inaccuracy, even aside from the usual typographical issues that often bedevil first editions.  One instance particularly would have been difficult for any writer to catch unless she had been familiar with a civic organization’s modus operandī, therefore requiring further explanation:

 

“She [Gwen] was working on other social justice projects, as well.  She worked to get ‘the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to pass a health care benefits ordinance for transgendered [sic] city employees as part of the City and County of San Francisco’s Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force.  This task force also mandated that all single occupancy bathrooms in the city would be gender neutral.’”8

 

The Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force convened on June 1, 2000 in a conference room on the second floor of San Francisco City Hall overlooking McAllister Street.  The 17 voting members were required to be San Francisco transgender residents selected from 3 sources:  6 by Mayor Willie Brown, 6 by the Board of Supervisors, and the remainder by the Human Rights Commission, though the residency requirement was waived for a couple of members whose expertise City officials desired for the effort.  The City assigned the task force a 2-year mandate after the 1994 passage of Municipal Proposition L that gave local recognition for the civil rights of transpeople.  Task force members would evaluate how well the city had followed the will of the electorate.  They were also to recommend implementation for change in the City’s practices.  This task force was a source for reform in police practice, transition benefits, and became a springboard for later change in California civil rights law.  Statewide change took the form of AB 196 that passed in August 2003, making California the 4th state after Minnesota, Rhode Island, and New Mexico to recognize transpeople as deserving of civil rights.  But discussions for addressing state law began with this task force in October 2000 and the verbiage of AB 196 followed the pattern its members discussed.9

Of course, 17 members couldn’t carry out all they needed to do by themselves.  Worse yet, some task force members couldn’t continue their duties for long because of financial or other personal reasons.  Several committees convened at various times each month and various locations in addition to the general meetings at City Hall on the first Thursday of each month.  From the beginning, the task force filled these committee positions with volunteer transpeople who did not need to be appointed or be San Francisco residents but who also attended the general meetings in an outer ring of seats away from the conference table.  These volunteers had access to documents pertaining to committees and all documents of the general meetings including the cornerstone document from the Human Rights Commission titled, Compliance Guidelines to Prohibit Gender Identity Discrimination.  Everyone in the room had some role in trans activism.  However, these volunteers were not considered part of the task force.  They were assistants to the task force much like a clerk who works at the meetings of the Board of Supervisors is an assistant and not part of the board.  It’s a distinction too easily overlooked.

By 2001, the task force was in danger of losing a required quorum and began to take new appointees.  The Board of Supervisors considered Gwen’s appointment as a voting member in August 2001.10 The date of Gwen’s appointment is important to the narrative because it occurs after, not before passage of transition benefits.  Task force members and volunteers were talking informally about transition benefits back in 2000.  Supervisor (now State Senator) Mark Leno authored the measure and introduced it in January 2001.  Its introduction hit the U.S. news media like a bomb, inciting national ridicule from late night political pundits and comics.  Despite opponents’ attempts to make San Francisco a laughingstock over health care for transpeople, proponents rallied in March 2001 and the Board of Supervisors passed transition benefits on Monday, April 30, 2001 with a vote of 9-2.  Many trans activists were present at City Hall at the time of passage including Gwen Smith as reported by Janis Ryan of Transgender San Francisco, writing in The Channel.11

So while it’s accurate to say that Gwen worked for passage of transition benefits, she could only have done so as a volunteer in 2001, not as a voting member of the task force.  Her work as a voting member would have applied to implementing what had already been passed and the success of this program was well established by 2006.12 The author should make this distinction when preparing this book for any future printing.

Ms. Leveque’s book features what may be the most extensive appendix for a book of pocket size: a list of transpeople people unfairly killed since 1970, almost the time of the Stonewall Uprising and from Gwen’s own research.  This list alone is worth perusing well.  By Gwen’s own admission, this list is by no means comprehensive “due to lack of proper media coverage, incorrect police information, and an overall lack of available information, particularly from earlier years.”13

The list seems overwhelming, frightening, and poignant.  It’s a list any trans activist should have ready to hand and available for reference.  It invites everyone to say and remember the names, to defy attempts to erase the victims, and implicitly, all transfolk from the world’s memory.  It also invites us to do our own research, to question and compare.  Consider a sample for a single month as an example, as compiled from the Trans Murder Monitoring Project and the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT):

 

  1. Alejandra Leos, age 41, shot 9/6/2014 in Tennessee.
  2. Karen Alanis, age 23, thrown from a moving truck 9/10/2014 in São Paulo, Brazil, and died at 7 pm at a local hospital.
  3. Cris, unknown age, killed by a drive-by shooter 9/13/2014 in Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil.
  4. Unknown cross dressed victim, allegedly found burned in Los Angeles 9/15/2014. (The obscure story then cited as coming from NBC Los Angeles has not been verified.)
  5. Gabriel Lopez, age 46 and Marcela Lopez, age 46, killed 9/15/2014 in Medellin Antioquia, Columbia as reported from 2 sources but both may be the same victim. No details recorded.
  6. Billi Saeed, age 27, killed 9/22/2014 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. No details recorded.
  7. Mahadevi, age 22, killed in Bangalore, India 9/24/2014. No details recorded.
  8. Bruna Lakles, age 29, killed 9/30/2014 in Brazil. No details recorded.
  9. Aniya Parker, age 47, fatally shot 10/2/2014 while walking home in Los Angeles. The LAPD and City Council offered $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of the culprits.14

 

Compare these names with Gwen’s list on pages 116, 117 for the same period:

 

  1. Alejandra Leos, Memphis Tennessee, USA, 2014, gunshot to the head.
  2. Karen Alanis, Caçapava, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2014, thrown from a vehicle, ran over.
  3. Marcela Duque, Medellin, Colombia, 2014, stoned to death.
  4. Cris, Portal da Foz, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, 2014, multiple gunshot wounds
  5. Mahadevi, Malleshwara, Karnataka, India, 2014, pushed off a moving train.
  6. Bruna Lakiss, Várzea Grande, Mato Grosso, Brazil, 2014, gunshot wound.
  7. Gaviota dos Santos, Rio Largo, Alagoas, Brazil, 2014, 3 shots to the face.
  8. Aniya Parker, Los Angeles California USA, 2014, gunshot wound to the head.15

 

The differences are themselves instructive for any archivist and historian as well as any activist who contributes to the Day of Remembrance.  Billi Saeed and the unknown victim burned in Los Angeles do not appear in Gwen’s list.  Gaviota dos Santos does not appear in the TMM-IDAHOT list from that time, though she may have been recognized later and so may have slipped through the cracks of being remembered at some 2014 observances.  Gabriel (Marcella) Lopez appears on Gwen’s list as Marcela Duque.  Bruna Lakles appears as Bruna Lakiss in Gwen’s list.  Other details emerge when making comparisons.

This is a very good thing to do because of a grim fact.  One person cannot hope to gather and maintain a fully correct and comprehensive list from year to year and from one generation to the next.  Gwen can’t.  Neither can I.  It takes a collective, a coordinated network across generations and international boundaries.  Even then we can’t be entirely sure the facts are 100% correct.

But it says something more.  While the lists associated with observance of the Day of Remembrance tell us how transpeople, especially those “of color,” have became fodder for slaughter, they don’t say much about how these transpeople lived or what lessons they may have gleaned.  Today’s news articles often offer much more in this respect and we need to give these stories attention concerning their details.  We must do the best we can because these people deserve to be remembered, and to do otherwise may render the entire demographic forgotten by default as it has during much of human history.

But the main contribution of Ms. Leveque’s biography consists of presenting Gwen’s insight.  It’s evident in her admonition to allies.16 It’s also evident in Gwen’s statements about the intentions of ITDOR, a much more serious event than what has sometimes occurred.17 ITDOR has been exploited to merchandize LGBT centers and sponsors even to the point of them becoming like street vendors in an atmosphere resembling a fair.  When sponsors gain a greater voice than the names of victims and speakers talk about the progress of their own transitions instead of defying erasure, they could cheat an entire gathering of attendees who attempt to exercise the observance.18

Gwen’s insight is what this book will continue to contribute, details of which should be read and re-read.  The work Gwendolyn Ann Smith has performed over the years has enriched and unified the trans community and this book will continue that enrichment in good measure.  Personal details are incidental.  But remembering her principles and following her actions offer the best and most enduring compliment by which her activism will endure as a legacy.

 

 

TRANS/ACTIVE: A Biography of Gwendolyn Ann Smith

By Sophia Cecelia Leveque

Produced and distributed by Library Partners Press

Z. Smith Reynolds Library

Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem NC

www.librarypartnerspress.org

ISBN: 978-1-61846-044-8

 

Paperback, 127 pages

Available on Amazon

 

Proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the National center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Trans Lifeline, TransLaw Help, and the TransActive Gender Center in Portland OR.

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_________________________

REFERENCES:

 

Featured Image:  (clockwise from the left) The cover of TRANS/ACTIVE; a scene from the first ever Transgender Day of Remembrance on a drippy evening in the Castro in 1999, from the archives of Lynnea Urania Stuart, source is an unknown amateur San Francisco photographer.  “Stop the killing!  Stop the hate!” was the mantra of protesters that night, available from Theresa Sparks on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-lTsu9SQXM .  Quotation from page 51 of TRANS/ACTIVE, leaping into light out of the darkness.

 

  1. Leveque, Sophia Cecelia. TRANS/ACTIVE: A Biography of Gwendolyn Ann Smith (Winston-Salem NC, Library Partners Press, ZSR Library, Wake Forest University August 1, 2017), p. 51.
  2. Ibid, p. 5.
  3. Ibid, p. 9.
  4. Ibid, p. 10.
  5. Ibid, pp. 19-21.
  6. Rita’s death often appears without mention of Chantelle’s as in “Transgender Day of Remembrance #TDOR – November 20” GLAAD https://www.glaad.org/tdor , accessed August 10, 2017.
  7. Op cit. p. 42.
  8. Ibid, p. 52.
  9. Unless otherwise noted, the writer, Lynnea Urania Stuart, relies upon her own recollections as a volunteer to the Transgender Civil Rights Implementation Task Force from June through November 2000 when she served as Employment Committee Secretary and attended the general meetings. Gwen was nowhere at the general meetings through November 2000 so could not have worked for the task force before December 2000.  Further conversation with Gwen on August 6, 2017 revealed that she recalled initially taking a seat next to the window near Larry Brinkin.  Brinkin, being an advisor to the task force, and not himself transgender, typically sat at the outer ring behind and to the right of Co-Chair Sarah Marshall.  Consequently, Gwen would have also sat in the outer ring. The writer has followed developments related to task force activities after moving from the Bay Area.  She writes about the task force and its relationship with AB 196 in detail in “California’s Trans Rights Collective” Transpire (June 10, 2016 ) https://lynneauraniastuart.wordpress.com/2016/06/10/californias-trans-rights-collective/ .
  10. Letter from the Clerk of the Rules Committee, San Francisco Board of Supervisors to Gwendolyn Ann Smith, dated August 9, 2001 (supplied by Gwendolyn Ann Smith August 6, 2017).
  11. Ryan, Janis “Transgender History Made in San Francisco” The Channel 20, Issue 6, June 1001,Transgender San Francisco, p. 15.
  12. Human Rights Commission. “San Francisco City and County Transgender Health Benefit” (memo revisiting the issue of transition benefits, 2006). Copy available online from  Transgender At Work Project. http://www.tgender.net/taw/SanFranciscoTGBenefitUpdateMar3106.pdf .
  13. Leveque, p. 77.
  14. List of transgender victims from the writer’s own archive.
  15. Op cit, pp. 116, 117.
  16. Ibid, p. 63.
  17. Ibid, p. 59.
  18. Witnessed by the writer, Lynnea Urania Stuart in Orange County CA. The writer has also witnessed how some younger members of a planning committee groaned at the perceived “drudgery” of reading the names of victims, an exercise that has embodied the very heart of the Day of Remembrance.
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Madam…A Powerful Music Video for Pakistan’s Trans Community

By TMPlanet

The music video is set to a catchy tune and starts out with two transgender women in bejeweled pink and red outfits, primping before a mirror. But it soon turns dark. They get disapproving stares in the marketplace and outside a mosque. And while they dance for cash at a bachelor party, the guests rough them up.

Although the video “Madam” is fictional, it features two real-life Pakistani transgender women, Lucky Khan and Nirmal Chaudry. And it sheds light on the reality that transgender people in the country face. Many are shunned by family, educators and employers. And some must turn to dancing, begging and prostitution for work.

But if “Madam” sketches out grim scenes of how transgender women can suffer in Pakistan, the visibility it offers signals another step forward for Pakistan’s transgender community, which has spent years steadily notching small victories. Most recently, on July 14, a task force formed by the national ombudsman submitted two bills before the parliament which would expand protections for transgender Pakistanis. And last month, Pakistan issued its first gender-neutral passport.

Jimmy Khan, the Pakistani singer and songwriter behind “Madam,” wanted to start a conversation. The caption for the video notes that it’s “a reflection of how cruelly we as a society treat the transgender community.” And the title of the video encourages viewers to “Watch. Absorb. Reflect. Change.”

“There is a very strong message behind this video,” says Jannat Ali, a transgender activist in Pakistan. The day portrayed in “Madam” is three-dimensional, she says, involving harassment, tenderness and fun. It also “shows they try to support each other [as if they were] like relatives, like sisters, like family.”

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The Problem with Men Like Bobby Valentino and Why It’s More Than Hypersexualizing of Trans Women

By Sabrina Samone

I can’t be the only trans woman this has happened too. You’re out shopping, a handsome man approaches you and starts a conversation. He opens the door for you, and asks do you have kids? How can your husband have you out here by yourself, fine as you are? You tell him you have no kids, or a husband. He continues with his inquisitive approach to figuring you out, while he asks for your number and a date. You can feel him watching you, studying you and if it’s a good day it just ends innocently there. Those other days is when his eyes swells, he stops and takes a step back to really look at you. He begins to figure out  your T (truth)¹, or the more politically correct phrase; sees that your gender identity differs from your assigned birth. Your heart beats faster, and sweat builds. You wonder how this will go. Will you be another statistic, or will this be an educational moment? Then again, could this be the moment you meet your soul mate? The questions, the anxiety, the uncertainty of being trans, but you got this.

Now come the questions like; ‘So you’re trans, I would have never known?’ He begin looking around to see if anyone else is watching him. For the past 30 minutes he seemed to have been unaware anyone else in the world existed, but now that he knows, he acts as if both of you are standing nude in the middle of a giant NFL stadium. The conversation has changed from asking you out on a date, to informing you that he has never been sexually active with a transgender woman before. More often than not the line continues as, but I always wanted to try. Maybe he tells you the first time he saw a transgender porn film, or a nude image of a nude trans-girl and how he was so turned on. Now you wonder did he know all along, as he continues telling you of his fantasies of one day meeting a rare unicorn. Yes you are entering the hyper-sexualized zone of being a transgender woman, and in fact, any woman.

Men are visual creatures, and predators. Before the masculists label me as a male hating feminist, I don’t mean predator in the registered sex offender sense. Predator as in a male’s primal sexual instinct. He enjoys the hunt. As my mother once said, it must not be up to the man how far to go with a woman, because if it was, he’d definitely go all the way every time. It’s up to the female, trans or cis, on how far you will let him go. It is your decision. It’s ok to say no.

Yet,  the case of Bobby Valentine² takes it a step deeper than just discarding this as simple hyper-sexualization of the female body. There is a sense of shame, and entitlement to this trans woman’s body. Men don’t pay for sex, ever. Men pay for discretion, so when Bobby Valentino hit up a transgender escort he was being on the down low, discrete, and not possibly because she was trans. Just possibly because he didn’t want his business on the streets, he has a girlfriend somewhere, as his tweets about his encounter revealed that he doesn’t seem to care who knows he had sex with a trans woman. All somewhat positive points in that regard, but what he did do was refuse to pay the escort he had hired, after having his services. Of course, a professional sex worker would have received payment up front regardless of gender, but this does raise the question of why some men feel that because an escort is transgender they don’t have to pay, or for the girl who isn’t a sex worker, he may feel entitled to have, as if he is doing her a favor.

Bobby Valentino has turned off his comments on social media and says he won’t let anyone steal his joy after he was allegedly outed by the sex worker. Over the weekend, a video surfaced online which allegedly shows the R&B singer quickly grabbing his clothes and running out of a hotel room after he refused to pay for “services” rendered.

Our trans sister, whom we will not reveal her name here to protect her identity, because trans women of color are victims of murder at an epidemic rate, reported that she did not mind putting Valentino on blast because it was her bank account she respected. Bobby ran off so fast that he had left his car keys, which the victim yelled at him that he would not be getting back until he pay the money owed, and to call  about the price.

Bobby wrote, “Say what u want! #imhappy😬people have so much hate in em that they wanna steal someone else joy.. can’t steal mine!😬”

While it’s debatable any joy was stolen from him, he definitely stole promised funds to a sex worker after having his, ‘joy’ with her. The mainstream tabloid media that has been reporting this weekend news, seems only infatuated with the fact the sex worker was transgender, not at all with the character and actions of Valentino.

For most transgender women this isn’t a new revelation. The media, our communities and churches, and even some of the men who claim to desire us often have such little respect or none at all for the bodies of transgender women. It’s a problem seen year after year when we read the names during our International Transgender Day of Remembrance. We see it in the countless attempts to legislate our bodies, and bathroom usage. It’s the in your face bigotry felt thru laws like The Freedom of Religion Acts, that give individual business a free reign to discriminate according to their taste and call it religious beliefs. It’s why nearly any transgender woman arrested and placed in a male prison is almost guaranteed to be raped, and violated, yet are continued to be placed with males. It brings to mind old rape defenses from the 1950’s, ‘she wore a red dress, she must have wanted it,’ or better yet, ‘she changed her gender so therefore she must’ve wanted it.’ A second assault on the victim.

It’s the constant message that our bodies are less valuable, that it doesn’t’ matter as much that trans women of color are being killed at an alarming rate, in the eyes of the Black Lives Matter movement. We battle TERFs for inclusion as women in women areas, and have sex offender Republican legislators, regulate our bathroom usage and create fear about our bodies to cover their indiscretions. The message the media has sent over the weekend, laughs at the revelation of Bobby Valentino’s sexual encounter with a trans woman, making comedy tabloid as the focus of the story. There is no debate or concern of the violation of the agreement broken by a wealthy high-profile celebrity and near homeless Atlanta sex worker. There is something deeper than just hypersexualization, and scandal here. It is shame, and a disregard for the safety of a trans woman’s body and it’s another example of how hip-hop, tabloid media continues to be an accessory to the murders of transgender women of color year after year.

Earlier Sunday afternoon, the victim released a  live video. She reports  receiving a lot of negative feed back for outing him. Revealing that the victim continues to be criminalized and further violated. Even throughout social media, gay men even joined in accusing her of using her “transness” to out a man, as if outing was the only issue at hand here, and implying that he may not have known she was trans. This is a constant message by cis men, gay and straight, that implies no one knowingly would be with a trans woman. The struggle for black trans women, even among black lgb, recalls to mind a line from The Color Purple; a black woman’s life is from can’t do to don’t.

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  1. My T: Slang for revealing that you are trans, or it being revealed. usage They got my T. (meaning they figured that I’m transgender).
  2. Bobby Wilson better known by his stage name Bobby V is an American singer, songwriter and actor. He has charted three No. 1 albums on Billboard’s U.S. Top R&B Chart since 2006. V’s first major single, “Slow Down”
  3.  International Transgender Day of Remembrance, which occurs annually on November 20, is a day to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.
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TransMusePlanet’s 5th Annual Top 20 Most Influential Trans People of 2016

 Revised and updated July 2017. TMP’s Most Influential, is an annual post nominated and voted on by our Friends of TMP followers. Go to our previous blog TransMusePlanet, to see the previous four years of listings.
Welcome to our 5th listing of our community’s most influential people: voted by our Friends of TransMusePlanet. Votes are cast by the readers of this blog, along with our followers on various social media pages.
This year I tried making it more fair. With ten times more followers on Facebook I shortened the voting time there, and extended it on TMP’s Google plus community (our more mature following), Tumblr ( our youngest following), and Twitter. The results were drastic from the previous years, and gave a wider look into the diversity of our TMP community.
 
Here are your votes Friends of TMP and our TMP community is definitely a sampling of what matters, and important in our greater trans community. For the first time this year, more than one Trans Youth is represented; reflecting the hottest debate of the year, the bathroom bills. Also, each year we have seen the visibility of Trans masculinity grow. This year it’s at an all time high as is reflected by the number of men nominated and voted too our list. During the first year, I literally had to ask trans male friends whom to nominate that they admire. This year there were more trans men nominated than women. Now more than ever, we need both the men and women of our community to stand united, and be visible as possible to counter the bigotry we all fear may come. A trans community united, and visible cannot be erased!
 
Many have shared that they would like to see more faces represented this year. Your votes were loud, and clear. We as a community face some major challenges under the new administration in 2017. It is exciting to see how far we’ve come from a limited amount of  representations among us, to a trans community that is seen, and known to touch all aspects of life. Today the list is limitless of those in our community that are inspiring a new genderation every year.
 
We may have some hard work for us in the coming year, but today we can celebrate the unity and diversity of what trans looks like now, in our time. Here are your Top 20 brothers and sisters that continue to inspire us, and the new genderation ahead.

BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING 

 
1. TRANS PERSON OF THE YEAR:
Sarah McBride
There are many moments in Trans history that will be talked about for genderations to come. Moments like Marsha P. Johnson’s throwing of the first brick into the window of the Stonewall bar that started a revolution, the first publicly written SRS  story about Christine Jorgensen, the day the DSM no longer classified transgender as a mental illness, and the more appropriate renaming of ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ with ‘Gender Dysphoria’. We will remember the the first President of The United States to validate a people long ignored, and addressed our issues that led to the ban on transgender personnel serving openly in the US military. Another historical moment we will never forget is the day one of our own stood before billions around the globe and said, “My name is Sarah McBride, and I’m a proud Transgender American.”
 
 
Sarah McBride was born in Wilmington, Delaware. From early on she had a passion for political life. As a student of American University she worked on Gov. Jack Markell’s 2008 campaign, and late Attorney General Beau Biden’s (son of  V.P. Joe Biden) 2010 campaign. She then went on to become the student body President at American University. Later she gained national attention by coming out as transgender in the university’s student paper, ‘The Eagle’. She received support from both the Bidens, which lead to an internship at the White House in 2012. With that internship, she made history as the first openly transgender woman to work at the White House in any capacity.
 
Already a respected activist in the trans community, Sarah also became the trans community’s sweetheart when she met Andrew Cray, an equally respected trans activist. Their fairy tale romance inspired many in our community. Our hearts broke with hers, as the news spread that the newly married McBride had lost her husband to cancer. She detailed the tragic events, and the strong unwavering love they shared that lead to their wedding shortly before his death in an article for the Huffington Post; Forever and Ever: Losing my Husband at 24.

With the strength of that love, she stood in front of the world and said, “Knowing Andy left me profoundly changed, but more than anything else his passing taught me that everyday matters when it comes to building a world where every person can live their life to the fullest.” She spoke of her late husband, the accomplishments she witnessed first hand in her home state of Delaware, and the strong LGBT caucus she stood before, as she became the first transgender person to deliver a speech at a national party convention. She brought attention to America the hate, and violence lgbTQ people face, but gave hope that the future can be different. “Tomorrow, we can be respected and protected. Especially if Hillary Clinton is our President,” she said.

With that speech McBride gave hope that it gets better to millions of transgender children in the world. After that speech, every trans person in America held their heads just a little higher than before. We were included, noticed, and validated through the visibility Sarah demonstrated to the world. Her visibility, work for the state of Delaware, and her devotion to her husband inspired a genderation of trans people who marked this moment as one of the most historical of their lifetime.

“We must never be a country that says there’s only one way to love, one way to work, and only one way to live.” —Sarah McBride
7. Geraldine Roman
 

In her words, “I’m just another politician that happens to be transgender”. Yet, for transgender people, even beyond the borders of the Philippines, she is much, much more. She is the proof to trans people across the world, that they can be more than just their gender. As the first transgender woman to be elected to congress in the heavily Catholic populated Philippines, she made a monumental historical mark for a group around the world that longs to just be seen as a person.
After years of Philippine political figures ridiculing lgbT people, in a country where the vast majority are Catholic, it was a notable achievement to say the least. Especially considering Roman bested her closest opponent for the congressional district with 62% of the vote, a landslide.

Her platform was the socioeconomic unrest that is growing in the Philippines. With just over  a population of 100 million, 25% of the country’s population remains below the poverty line. She was aware of these challenges facing her country growing up in a political family. In fact the very seat Roman would take was previously held by her mother.

Though she did not run a campaign specifically on lgbt issues, she is a champion for all, in a country without any openly lgbt politicians. Throughout a country where the religious majority plays a powerful role, lgbT rights remain a huge priority for Roman, who said during the campaign that her family always remained supportive of her. Her father advised her to remain confidant, despite being bullied for her gender identity in school.

“Gender only becomes an issue when you try to keep it a secret. I’m so happy so why should I be ashamed.” —Geraldine Roman
 
14. Kael McKenzie
Kael McKenzie didn’t set out to be a historical trailblazer, yet he ended up sitting as Canada’s first transgender Judge. He was appointed to the Provincial Court of Manitoba in December 2015. The appointment helped many struggling trans people embrace their own gender identity, and gave hope to countless parents of transgender youth of what a future now looks like for their trans sons, and daughters.
 
As a graduate of the University of Manitoba, he has worked as a lawyer in private practice, commercial, and civil law. He co-chaired the Canadian Bar Association’s sexual orientation, and gender identity conference from 2012-2014.
 
A self-described tomboy as a child, he enrolled as a sea cadet at 13 to escape the feminine clothes of his youth for the same uniform worn by all sea cadets. By 19 he enlisted in the Navy during the time when it was against Canadian Armed Forces regulations to be gay or lesbian. After a marriage, and years denying his authenticity during the beginning of his law career, Kael began transitioning.
 
On February 12th 2016, McKenzie was sworn in, in historic fashion, live streamed throughout the country. He says he feels a responsibility to send a message that; “Transgender people can be anything they want to be, and the only barriers are ourselves.”

“My hope is that one day this is not going to be newsworthy, and that when judges are appointed who happen to be transgender, it’s going to be regular everyday occurrences, the same as any other marginalized group or equity group.” —Kael McKenzie

THE GAME CHANGERS

2. Coy Mathis
From the time Coy was one and a half years old she loved nothing more than playing dress up. Coy is one of four siblings, and child of Karthryn and Jeremy Mathis. Coy’s fascination with all things pink and fluffy was assumed to be the harmless play of a toddler, whose mind was yet untainted by the world of the gender binary. The Mathis family assumed what most parents of trans kids think in the beginning, it’s just a phase. Until one night in 2010, while tucking little Coy into bed, she asked her mother, “When am I going to get my girl parts?”
Now began the journey that would lead the Mathis family to make a decision to be apart of a radical social experiment.  The choice to listen to the heartache of your child, or follow the strict gender social constructs their daughter seemed destined to collide with. A collision course with their local school district placed Coy in the center of the transgender movement as our youngest icon. If the transgender movement is the final frontier for lgbT, then our trans youth represent its farthest outpost.

Coy and her family joined a growing group of families no longer willing to sacrifice the safety, mental stability, or the life of their children by preventing them to live authentically as themselves. Yet, as the parents of transgender children,  they joined in the struggle with every trans person against the bigotry that awaits us all. That bigotry would rear its ugly head state after state this year flooding bathroom bills from grade schools, to adult work environments.

Many who felt angered by the loss from the fight of marriage equality, redirected their bigotry to justify that hate towards trans youth. Even now with plans for an upcoming film, ‘Growing up Coy‘,  that has led her onto the cover of the National Geographic, her family has experienced a tsunami of hate, and bullying. The film which will chronicle the Mathis family life before, during, and after the lawsuit recently premiered in New York.  The director of the film, Eric Juhola says of Coy, “Coy is just a little girl who wants to be like all the other little girls, and do everything else that any other little girl would want to do, including using the girls bathroom.”

“She doesn’t want to have to explain who she is, and talk about how she’s different. She just wants to be.” —Kathryn Mathis, Mother of Coy Mathis 

6. Gavin Grimm
 

One day at Gloucester High School as school bells were ringing, girls chatting and giggling at handsome boys passing, and with teachers screaming “No running in the halls”, a young man was simply needing to go to the bathroom. When young Gavin Grimm needed to pee, the world stopped, and nearly fell over the edge of the flat planet they still believed in.

During his sophomore year the young teenager began quietly reintroducing himself as a boy. Grimm had previously men’s bathrooms in restaurants, stores, and at the nearby amusement park because, well he was a boy. He looked like a boy,  and so he naturally walked into the boy’s bathroom at his high school in 2014. That swinging of a stall, would led to an acrimonious public debate over bathroom usage.

The debate that started in this sleepy town grew, in and out of court, and all the way to the Supreme Court. It created a media storm, and social media frenzy. The ACLU, and the entire trans community rallied behind Gavin, creating a new slogan,’I Stand With Gavin’. That slogan, would be later adapted for all trans people in the struggle to use the restroom, and became ‘I’ll stand With You.’

Initially, the Grimm’s sued the school board, stating the policy violated his civil rights. Next, the case reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which ruled Grimm’s suit could continue. The court deferred to the Obama administration’s position that barring transgender students from bathrooms is a violation of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in public schools. A lower court ordered the school board to allow Grimm to use the boy’s bathroom while the case proceeded, but the school board appealed to the Supreme Court, which stayed the order; meaning the bathroom policy will remain in effect until the Supreme Court decides the case in 2017, right around the time Grimm will graduate from high school.

This case placed a reluctant teen into the national spotlight, and led the bathroom debates to the Supreme Court. It has also made an advocate of young Gavin Grimm.

“I’m nothing particularly threatening or extraordinary, I’m just another 17-year-old kid. I have 17-year-old fears, and worries, and I have 17-year-old motivations, which is just to get out of high school, and have fun with my friends and family. There’s just nothing about me that is predatory or dangerous,or warrants the kind of response I got from my local community.”—Gavin Grimm

9. Nicole Maines
Nicole Maines, is an advocate, and actress that has felt the devastating consequences of school boards forcing her into a restroom not in accordance with her gender identity.

Recently this year she appeared in the t.v. series Royal Pains, and the HBO documentary, ‘The Trans List‘. Maines has also become an advocate of trans youth after her experiences in a Main school district during  her 5th grade year.

Her family filed a discrimination lawsuit and in 2014, she made history when Maine’s Supreme Court ruled that officials from the public school violated anti-discrimination law, by not allowing her to  use the girl’s restroom. It was the first time that a state court ruled it unlawful to deny transgender students access to the bathroom of the gender they identify. The news catapulted Nicole into the spotlight, and as an outspoken trans activist today.

“Acceptance at home is fundamental yes, but frankly it’s just not enough. Trans youth, like most young people, spend the majority of their time at school. If you spent Mon-Fri, from 8-3, being told that you weren’t okay, that you were wrong, how are you meant to think otherwise?”—Nicole Maines

THE INSPIRATIONS

3. Chris Moiser
Chris Mosier took a giant leap for transgender athletes, and for trans men everywhere, when he became the first trans member of Team USA. When the IOC, and the governing bodies solidified their current regulations on transgender athlete eligibility in January, the frustration, the inequality, and the fears Mosier had faced finally felt redeemed.

Mosier has won several awards in competing, and has become an advocate for trans athletes founding, ‘Transathlete.com‘; a resource for students, athletes, coaches, and administrators to find information about trans inclusion in athletics at various levels of play. He is also the executive director of ‘GO! Athletes‘, a non-profit safe place for former lgbTQ athletes.

 

Already appearing in several major news outlets this year, he also became the first openly transgender athlete to be featured in the ‘Body Issue’ of ESPN Magazine. He also became the first trans athlete to appear in a Nike ad, (a trans inclusive corporation).

“It’s a very different experience when you put the person before the pronoun.”—Chris Mosier 
4. Kortney Ryan Ziegler

You can’t say trans activist without mentioning the name, Kortney Ryan Ziegler. He writes the script for advocacy and awareness of trans masculine visibility. An award-winning visual artist, film maker, writer, blogger, there isn’t a medium he doesn’t or hasn’t influenced. If you are thankful that the awareness of trans men of color has improved over the past few years, you’d do best to start by looking at the work of this man.

Growing up in the streets of Compton, raised by a single mother, he was as so many young black children, bombarded by images in the media that depicted his image as less than. It set the stage for a man who will be apart of changing that distorted view of humanity.
 
He started by earning a PhD at Northwestern University, where he began his transition. In 2008 he created one of the most outstanding works for, and about trans men of color ‘STILL BLACK: A Portrait of a Black Trans Man, exploring the life of an FtM transitioning in the African American community.
 
In 2013 Ziegler launched Trans*H4ck, an organizational hub for trans people collaborating on technical projects. Through his organizations, developers, programmers, designers, entrepreneurs, and community members come together to brainstorm new ideas, and create technological advanced digital tools to better the trans community. He continues as award-winning writer, and blogger on issues facing trans men of color, and uniting all the trans community through his efforts.
“I think my identity has afforded me a different way to approach film because I want to see people who share similar life experience as me on the big screen. This urge is what pushes me and has proven to be the invaluable aspect of my career.”—Kortney Ryan Ziegler
 

11. Benjamin Melzer

Men’s Health Magazine began a competition for the cover in several countries. In the early part of 2016, it would be Benjamin Melzer, who landed the coveted title in European’s Men’s Health Edition. He quickly became a fitness model throughout Europe.
 
The German native began transitioning at 18. Two years later he asked his mother to rename him, as he believed in the parents choice. She named him Benjamin.
Being recognized by the magazine he read for years, it lead him to become and advocate for other transgender people. He would join Jake Graf, and other well-known European trans activist in the viral video ‘What Trans Looks Like: Transgender Men & Women Share Stories‘. With this year’s success his modeling career continues to grow. He joins fellow Dutch trans model Loiza Lamers in a recent ad for Italian label ‘Diesel’, as a fashion model.
 
“I really hope that I can change attitudes. When you are born this way, you have no choice. So many people are hiding who they truly are, so I really wanted to give the trans community visibility. Show that we’re just normal people.”—Benjamin Melzer
15. Jazz Jennings
With permanent spot on TMP’s most influential list for the past five years, she remains the trans community’s lil favorite mermaid. Thou, little Jazz is now growing up before all our eyes, on TLC’s hit reality show, ‘I Am Jazz,” she remains that lil girl that gives hope to so many, young and old.
 
Now a veteran spokesperson, and advocate within the community, she’s now a famous television personality. Yet, America is reminded watching her show, that she is just another girl with teenager troubles. The show is truly an inspiring example of a families love, and togetherness. From her big sis with the advice, to her protective twin brothers. The show is a heartwarming look at what supportive love in a family can do, to rise above any obstacle.
 
At six years old, Jennings and her family began appearing on television to speak about the challenges of growing up transgender. After founding Trans Kids Purple Rainbow Foundation, connecting trans kids and parents from around the world, she began advocating, and writing on trans issues. Earlier this year she published a memoir, ‘Being Jazz: My Life As a Transgender Teenager.’ Most recently Microsoft (a trans inclusive corporation), created a holiday ad featuring the now well known teen activist, along with a variety of artist, activist, and entrepreneurs using Microsoft Surface Studio to express their message of peace, love and inclusion.

“I don’t focus too much on politics. I’m busy with school, and being a kid. But my mom always says she’s a one issue voter. All she cares about is if they’re going to support the lgbTQ community or not.”—Jazz Jennings

THE ENTERTAINERS

5. Jen Richards 
As the co-founder and director of Trans 100, and the creator of ‘We Happy Trans‘, a website dedicating to celebrating positive transgender experiences that has received national media attention, she is by far one of the more well-known, and respected advocates. Yet, her passion and work is in film, which also in many ways is a continued, extension of her advocacy work for trans people.
 

As a writer, producer, and actress her work includes the critical acclaimed ‘Her Story‘, recently this year nominated for an Emmy. The web series, in its first season is considered one of the most important pieces of media created by, with and for transgender women. The series centers around a lesser discussed topic in media, trans women and relationships. It is a vital important work to relay through media, the relationship, and desire for love that trans women experience as other women do.

With the commercial success of Netflix’s ‘Transparent‘, and ‘The Danish Girl’, films involving transgender people are in the mainstream media consciousness. Sadly, most of the stories are told, written, and portrayed by cis-gender actors. When ‘Her Story’ premiered, it broke through many of those barriers that several in the community felt needed to be. A trans story, about trans people, portrayed by trans people.

Most recently, Richards has added to her credits, a re-curing role on CMT’s hit show, Nashville.

“My hope is that ‘Her Story’ inspires other trans creators to keep telling their stories, and keep telling them better and more insistently, and that it gets some people inside Hollywood to look for stories in places they haven’t before.” —Jen Richards
8. Angelica Ross
Another member, and fellow co-star of the Emmy nominated series ‘Her Story’, is Angelica Ross. Also, another actress/singer who maybe known more for their outstanding advocacy, and contributions to trans society. This past year, Miss Ross accepted the HRC visibility award. HRC has made efforts in the recent year, to bridge the rift with the trans community. As a trans woman of color, a business woman who transformed her life from showgirl to the CEO of Miss Ross Inc., and Trans Social Enterprise, this award was long overdue for the work Angelica Ross has done on behalf of the lgbT community.
Angelica left home at 17 to join the Navy, and after a near death experience in Japan, she gain the purpose to live her true authentic life. By 19 she was well into transitioning, and began modeling in stealth mode. She began turning down work that was too stressful, and dysphoric for her. She went on to other careers; a showgirl, real estate, beauty school, until founding Trans Tech Enterprise, a training and apprenticeship academy for transgender people with technological skills.
 
Miss Ross, is forever growing as an artist, actress, advocate, and continues to inspire all trans people, but especially trans women of color who have limited resources, to improve our lives.
“I knew members of my community could be their own saviors, they only needed the opportunity. My mission is to prove that everyone has the right to peruse their dreams.” —Angelica Ross

12. Laverne Cox
Actress, advocate, artist, and a champion to trans people around the globe. Laverne Cox has done more to change the minds of the entertainment business than any has done before her. Yet, her humility, and love for the trans community would have her to be the first to say, she stands on the shoulders of giants.

Cox, remains best known for her role as Sophia, in the hit Netflix series, ‘Orange is the New Black’. A series, a role, and actress that changed the game, but this year we saw Lavern Cox expand her repertoire as spokesperson in the media for the trans community, and as an actress. With several television projects this year, the most notable was as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, in a t.v. remake of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again’. She is also well underway in a new project filming for a release in 2017, ‘The Freak’, playing the role of Felica.

Laverne Cox has experienced many first, but one of the biggest, and historical, in 2016 was being the latest celebrity, and the first trans woman to be featured in wax, at Madame Tussaud’s. She continues to be a leading trailblazer, and outspoken advocate for trans rights, and trans people of color. In May, Cox was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from The New School, in New York City, for her progressive work in the fight for gender identity.
“Believing you are unworthy of love and belonging, that who you are authentically is a sin or is wrong, is deadly. Who you are is beautiful, and amazing!” —Laverne Cox
13. Jake Graf
Growing up trans in London, Jake Graf found escape in the world of imagination. This imagination grew, and lead him into a career in film. His first film as writer, director, and producer in X-Why, landed him several awards for short films, including being featured in the prestigious Five Films for Freedom project with the British Film Council.
In 2015, his hit short film ‘Brace’, earned him international fame, and became a gueer film festival favorite, gaining him the title of the Cary Grant of trans actors. Earlier this year he entered the role as advocate for trans people, and especially trans men, by creating the viral video for trans day of visibility with several other well-known European trans personalities.
He continues to make headlines, with partner, and British Army Captain Heather Winterbourne, as they were named UK’s Pride Power List, as lgbT mover’s and shakers to know. They are also well-recognized as the trans power couple of Great Britain.
“Get yourself out there and make that difference, as trans men are finally starting to emerge from all walks of life. It is exciting to be able to stand proud and hopefully show the next generation that it is possible to be trans, and happy.”—Jake Graf
16. Rhys Ernst & Zackary Drucker
We can’t mention trans power couples without mentioning one of the most long-lasting, and influential trans collaborative team in America, the entertainment business, and in art: Rhys Ernst, and Zackary Drucker.
 
The collaborative team moved from New York to Los Angeles, and both begun transition together at 25. They burst onto the media scene with their highly discussed, and award-winning book, ‘Relationship’, based on the photographic series that premiered in 2014 at the Whitney Biennial. It documented their six-year relationship, and transitions together.
While Zackary Drucker became a fixture on the hit series ‘I Am Cait’, both remained a powerful, influential collaborative team in the media. As producers, and Emmy winners of the hit Netflix series ‘Transparent’, they pushed, and continue to influence Hollywood as a whole, to include trans artistic expressions in film.
 
“Our ethos is one of uncompromised representation. The intersection of trans representation, with the fight for trans equality is our guiding principle, and we’re at the beginning of a long game that’s linked to a timely, and larger conversation about diversity in media, and in labor. If trans stories are important for all people, exemplifying a journey to live authentically, then trans employment in an industry like Hollywood becomes a symbol of possibility for anyone who’s been historically excluded.”—Rhys Ernst and Zackary Drucker
19. Lucas Charlie Rose
Lucas Charlie Rose, is a well known You Tube Vlogger and musician , chronicling his transition, and love of hip hop. A trans-masculine hip hop artist that is not only reshaping the next genderation of hip hop, but forging together those voices in music often overlooked.  Born in Paris, he later earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Film production from Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. He’s been featured over  the past year in several lgbtq media outlets such as: FTM Magazine, Trans-Cafe, Out Front Online, and Portugal’s LGBThoje.
 Last year, with he collaborated with FTM Magazine, and release the trans favorite song ‘This is What Trans Looks Like.’ Earlier this year he raised eyebrows with the ingenious, first ever, collaboration CD, of several trans-only hip-hop artist such as; Sidney Chase, Nicki Andro, Neeko Freeman, Jiji Parker, King Giselle, and many more. The first ever such project, that spoke volumes to the unity of the trans hip-hop music scene.

He made headlines also this year in a recreated Calvin Klein ad to promote trans awareness of trans people of color who don’t feel represented by the popular brand. He also has become an advocate, who challenges the status quo of hip hop to acknowledge the contributions of trans people. He currently is playing various venues in the north-east.

“Hip hop in itself is revolutionary, and if anybody belongs in hip hop it’s us: black trans people.”—Lucas Charlie Rose

THE TREND SETTERS

10.Laith Ashley
Ok ladies, and some of you guys, I hear ya, but he is happily taken by co-star, and fellow model bombshell Arisce Wanzer. The couple, along with the rest of the full cast of trans models, are heating up television across the country, with Oxygen’s new hit series, ‘Strut’. The series, which has Whoopi Goldberg as executive producer says, “People tend to focus on the stereotype instead of the person. This is a unique opportunity to spend time with real people who are struggling with the same challenges we all face as we make our way through the world.

By now if you are trans, and you haven’t heard of Laith Ashley,
then where are you hiding child? While there has been a slew of trans masculine representation this year, it is without a doubt the presence of Laith Ashley on national television that has America realizing, if they hadn’t already, that the trans man has arrived.

The 26-year-old started transition less than 3 years ago, and immediately appeared in a Barney’s ad, along with several well-known trans personalities. The New York native quickly became a favorite to follow on social media, (and in my best RuPaul  ‘You Better Work’ voice), his modeling career took off. He has been featured in shows for New York Fashion Week for Adrian Alicea, and Gypsy Sport. He also has posed for Calvin Klein.
Laith’s presence, and the creation of the show Strut, comes amid a call to the modeling industry for more representation of the large number of trans models working, who are denied those coveted go sees gigs with national brands. Though many in our community see this as one field that has a great deal of trans representation, those trans models are often limited to the work they receive. While our community knows of them, few have broken the barrier into the mainstream, even fewer of those are men, which makes Laith’s role in this, pivotal for trans masculine representation.
“I want to show everyone that yes I am trans, but it’s not all that I am. The same goes for all trans people. Everyone’s transition is their own; my story, my transition, my identity is my own. Everyone’s identity, trans or not, is their own. Every trans person does not feel that they were trans from a  young age, every trans does not feel they were born into the wrong body. It does not however, invalidate their feeling or their journey. With Cait for example, people say, ‘I’m not going to call her Caitlyn, I’ll call her Bruce.’ To me, that’s the most disrespectful thing you can do.” —Laith Ashley
17. Amiyah Scott
One of trans society’s most talked about starlet’s is now a star in her own right. In fact the very show that will move her into the stratosphere not seen by any trans actress thus far, is called ‘Star’. Amiyah Scott is a model, reality tv personality, and has been an aspiring actress that held out for a role that gave her respect. As we know, good things come to those who wait, and the biggest role to date for a trans actress came her way.
What makes this show historic for a trans actress, is that it’s produced by award-winning producer Lee Daniels, the creator of the hit series ‘Empire’ which has made mega stars of Taraji Henson, and includes Terrance Howard, and Gabourey Sidibe, both Academy Award Nominees. He also was the Producer of ‘Monster’s Ball’, the film that would place Hallie Berry as the first black woman to win an Oscar in a leading actress role, ever.
Before she landed her recent dream job, Scott worked as a make-up artist, and beauty consultant in Atlanta GA. It was there she would meet, and audition for that big break. News broke earlier in the year that she would be a cast member on the Atlanta Housewives franchise, on Bravo. It has been reported that the producers of the show, wanted a spectacle; a bitchy trans woman. After one cameo, Scott never returned.
 
As trans people, we are forever fighting to be treated, and represented with the dignity we deserve. Like many trans actors, and people around the world, Scott refuses to degrade herself, and in the process has become an advocate for trans actors, and actresses who are trying to change how Hollywood views us, represent, and depict us.
“I’m in my twenties, and when this opportunity was BROUGHT to me, it was no quarantees, and I was cool with that, but I wasn’t going to exploit myself or act out of character for it…I honestly saw a chance to help change the perspective of MY community, but I wanted to maintain my dignity. WE ARE HERE AND WE DEMAND RESPECT.” —Amiyah Scott
18. Kris Hayashi
Last year Kris Hayashi took over as Executive Director at Transgender Law Center, one of the largest organizations in the country advancing the rights of transgender, and gender non-conforming people. The Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity, or expression. Can an advocate be a trend setter? It has under Kris Hayashi.
 
This year Levi Strauss & Co., named him one of their Pioneers in Justice 2020: chosen leaders of next generation social justice. As a transgender person of color, Hayashi, has over 20 years of social justice on behalf of transgender, and non-conforming people. Under his direction, Transgender Law Center stands poised along other large lgbtq organizations to combat discrimination.
 
At 23, Kris worked with (YUCA), Youth United for Community Action in California. YUCA, is a grassroots organization, ran by young people of color as a safe space to empower themselves, and work on environmental, and social issues. He is inspiring a new generation of trans advocates to be heard.
 
This year many advocates followed his moves, as he stood firm against Trump’s (Not My President), running mate, Mike Pence. In Sept., Transgender Law Center joined MALDEF, in filing a lawsuit, on behalf of a 31-year-old trans man in Marion County Indiana, against Mike Pence, Attorney General of Indiana, and the Clerk of Court of Marion County.
 
The plaintiff, was born in Mexico but came to the U.S., at age 6, and has since been granted asylum in the Hoosier State. While all his official documentation, and identification lists him as male, he is currently stuck with his original birth name because of a 2010 Indiana law that requires American citizenship for a name change.
 
“The vice-presidential nominee, and governor of Indiana endorses a law that’s making life dangerous for LGBT people in his state. It must be overturned,” said Kris Hayashi.
“There should be many, many spokespersons, people of color, transgender men, gender-nonconforming people, who really raise up the day-to-day realities for the majority of the transgender community. The larger the picture of our community, the stronger it is.”—Kris Hayashi

A LIVING LEGEND

20.  KYLAR BROADUS
Kylar Broadus is by far one of the leading activist today, that has been fighting in the trenches for years to advance transgender rights.
As Senior public policy counsel with the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the director of the organization’s Transgender Civil Rights Project. In 2012, he made history as the first openly transgender p erson to testify before the U.S. Senate, speaking in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

In 2010, he founded the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC), the only national civil rights organization dedicated to the needs of trans people of color. Through this organization, he has gathered advocates from across the nation, and over the years have brought the attention, of the needs, and problems facing trans people of color. It is without question, the efforts of TPOCC, that the visibility of trans people of various colors, is greater now than ever before.

He has published countless articles, and chapters in publications: ‘Bodies Trans Selves; A Resource for the Transgender Community’, ‘Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy’, and the Evolution of Employment Discrimination Protection for Transgender People,” the later being one of the influences of ENDA.

Recipient of the National LGBTQ Task Force’s ‘Sue J. Hyde’ Award, for Longevity in the Movement, and the Pioneer Award, at the TransFaith in Color Conference. One of the first trans people to be recognized in the annual OUT 100 list, in 2013.

“One of the major obstacles to overcoming this hate, and violence would be economic stability and empowerment of the trans community. Trans people, particularly communities of color, make less than $10,000 per year if employed, according to “injustice at Every Turn.” We know that joblessness leads to homelessness, poor health care and being vulnerable on the streets. We are not unemployed because we are lazy, unskilled, unintelligent, or don’t want to work. It is because society does not deem us worthy of even having a job.” —Kylar Broadus
Thank you Friends of TMP, for the 967 votes that were cast throughout this blog, and our social media pages. Many have tried imitating our list, or out right copied it, but again as we will see over the next few weeks,  with disastrous results. They will say, as we do, it’s our readers choice, let the apples fall where they may. That makes me even more proud of our Friends of TMP. TMP is about unity within our community. Sharing the common ground of being Trans, and just like our friends of TMP, your votes reflect that diversity in our community. Keep shining, keep living your truth, and always know, Trans Is Beautiful!

TEN FACES TO WATCH IN 2017

Nya Cruz, Reality Star on Fuse’s Hit Series ‘Transcendent
 Viktor Belmont, Adult Entertainer
 Mya Taylor, Actress
 
 Liam Klenk, Author
Kelly Mantle, Reality personality/Actress/Actor
 Neo L. Sandja, Author/Advocate
 Shea Diamond, Singer/Song Writer

REMEMBERING OUR LOST ANGELS
We dedicate, and remember our 1,700 Kings & Queens who have lost their lives in the battle to live their authentic life. Each of these outstanding trans role models, along with every trans person that are on a quest to live life as their truest self, salute and honor you.
We say thank you for the light that you shown to the world when you were here, and igniting the flame of determination that will be carried in the hearts of every trans person on earth.
We will forever speak your name, and let it not be in vain.

FOR PREVIOUS ANNUAL TMP LISTINGS OF INFLUENTIAL TRANS PEOPLE, PLEASE VISIT US ON OUR PREVIOUS SITE.

TMP’s Annual Top 20 Most Influential Trans People of 2015

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS TOPIC OR START THE FORUM TO NOMINATE 2017’S MOST INFLUENTIAL , PLEASE JOIN THE CONVERSATION ON  THE TMP FORUM

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