With Transgender Day of Remembrance happening on Nov. 20, let’s take a look at the five most influential transgender persons in history. From politicians and political activists to social icons, all have played key roles in furthering the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
Marsha P. Johnson:
Johnson was born in 1945 and not only played an important role in the advancement of rights for transgender individuals, but for the entire LGBTQ+ community. Johnson was important in the Stonewall uprising in 1969, which began after a series of police raids at the bar. Later in the 1980s and 90s, Johnson played a role in bringing awareness to the AIDS epidemic by working with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) organization, all while navigating the diagnosis herself. Johnson passed away in 1992, but not before creating change and acceptance for herself and her community.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy fought alongside Johnson at the Stonewall uprising to increase rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, Miss Major has played a role in advocating for incarcerated transgender individuals. The current prison system in most states does not protect, accept or even acknowledge transgender individuals. Miss Major works to increase access to legal aid and spark political reform. Miss Major has dedicated her life to creating a more accepting world.
Jenkins is an American politician and activist for LGBTQ+ rights. In 2017, she made history by becoming the first Black and transgender woman elected to the city council in a major city, securing a position in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has been featured on Time magazine’s front cover alongside other individuals who all won the LGBTQ Victory Fund. She has not only broken the glass ceiling but also continues to work on issues regarding gun violence and police brutality.
Strangio is an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which works to protect the human rights of American citizens. He served as lead counsel for Chelsea Manning, a transgender U.S. Army soldier, and high school student Gavin Grimm, who was denied access to his public school’s boys’ bathroom. Strangio, alongside Mexican-American transgender and immigrant rights activist Lorena Borjas, created the “Lorena Borjas Community Fund” to provide bail funds for transgender individuals. In June, Strangio played a key role in the landmark case of Bostock v. Clayton County, a Supreme Court case that ruled it illegal to terminate someone on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
In 2006, Jennings, at just 6 years old became outspoken about what life was like as a young transgender child. Jennings and her parents created the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation to assist trans youth and provide them with rubber mermaid tails. Mermaids are a symbol in the transgender community for freedom and self-expression. Jennings herself found it freeing to swim with a mermaid tail. Her foundation has made it possible for other children to experience the same thing. Jennings had her own TLC reality show called “I Am Jazz” which shares the reality of her life. The show has also helped to increase awareness and support for transgender individuals. Jennings is an activist for LGBTQ+ rights, as well as gun reform.