4 Trans Celebrities You Need to Know

Sesetu Holomisa

As a guest speaker on a podcast titled “Man Enough'', poet and speaker, Alok Vaid-Menon said, “we don’t know how to see each other for each other, we see each other for what we think one another should be.” This has a lot to do with how most of us have been socialised. Heterosexuality and gender binaries are imposed on children as soon as their sexes are confirmed in the womb. Once they are born, clothing items for those perceived to be girls are pink and blue for those assumed to be boys - yet gender is fluid. In my mother tongue, Xhosa, there are no gendered pronouns because gender is a social construct. The sex of an individual relates to biological circumstances, yet the gender of an individual may lie anywhere on the spectrum. The tremendous beauty of the LGBTQI+ community is that one is seen for who they are, not who they are told or perceived to be. 

Chella Man

Man is a Jewish, Chinese, Deaf,  genderqueer trans masculine actor, and model. In addition to his impressive credentials as a DC Superhero actor (Jericho in Titans), Chella is a YouTuber, artist, writer, and motivational speaker. In a 2018 TedX Talk titled “Becoming Him”, Man described the mental and physical obstacles he had to overcome to feel authentic. Man hesitated to transition because of a fear of having to let go of his femininity despite wanting to become ‘him’. That was until he learnt of the term ‘genderqueer’, defined as “relating to or having a gender identity that is other than male or female, is a combination of the two genders, or is on a continuum of gender.” He has documented his transition on YouTube and has been very transparent about his journey, not only with regards to getting top surgery and being on testosterone but how he knew he wanted to transition, how he navigated identification, and how he has dealt with body dysmorphia. Furthermore, he encourages his supporters to learn American Sign Language (ASL) by creating ASL lessons. Chella Man inspires us to be our representations. He doesn’t look to his sexuality, religion, race, or disability to define himself, he just works towards being authentic in all that he is.

Zaya Wade

Matt Bernstein recently posted an insightful post (as per usual) on Instagram, highlighting how heterosexuality is pushed on children yet most anti-LGBTQI+ folk always claim that children are too young to discuss sexuality and identify as outside of the gender binary. No one is too young to know who they are or who they are not. Zaya Wade is one of many who proves that to be true. Daughter of former NBA player, Dwayne Wade, and stepdaughter of seasoned actress, Gabrielle Union, Zaya told her parents that she identifies as transgender when she was just 12 but she knew this from the age of 3. Zaya’s strength is in knowing herself at such a young age and telling everyone around her. Her father is also on record saying that her authenticity has taught him so much about himself and life. 

Being a celebrity’s kid has allowed Zaya to make a decent example of her parents on how other parents can navigate parenting a transgender child. She has also encouraged all those that are afraid to come out to free themselves from societal constraints in a clip shared by Teen Vogue:

"[To anyone] who is afraid they're going to be judged, I would say don't even think about that. Just be true to yourself, because what's the point of even living on this earth if you're going to try to be someone you're not?" Zaya said. "It's like you're not even living as yourself. Be true and don't really care what the 'stereotypical' way of being you is."

Hunter Schafer

You probably know Hunter from HBO’s popular series, “Euphoria” where she plays Jules. However, Schafer has long been in the public eye. At the age of 18, Hunter made Teen Vogue’s 2017, 21 Under 21 list for legally challenging the House Bill 2 (HB2) “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act” passed in 2016 in North Carolina. This bill sought to discriminate against transgender people by prohibiting them from going into public restrooms of their choice. Schafer was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the North Carolinian state for this anti-trans bill. Ultimately, Schafer and ACLU won the case but that did not mean that Hunter could freely be in spaces wrought with anti-trans sentiments. She once recalled how difficult it was for her to navigate her transition in high school because something as simple as having to go to the loo was politicised. 

In an interview with i-D the Prada muse said “it takes a little bit of bravery to step out, to be like, okay, I don’t look like anybody else around here. I am making the conscious decision to present myself the way I want to today, and no one’s really going to fuck with it, but I fuck with it. And that’s all that matters.” Having transitioned at a young age Schafer has been able to convey the nuanced ways in which one can view and pursue femininity in “Euphoria” because that’s her experience. She speaks to the significance of a transgender person playing a transgender role (like Jackson) and how this seemingly obvious casting choice should be normalised. Hunter continues to encourage us to always speak up against the discrimination of others, whether it directly affects us or not.

Dominique Jackson

Well known for her iconic role as Elektra Abundance Evangelista in the Emmy award-winning show, “Pose”, Jackson is a prominent advocate for trans rights. She utilises her platform to be vulnerable and unapologetic about her existence (because why should she be sorry for being a vocally black trans actor, model, and author?) In the US, black trans lives are often met with cruelty and fatal violence. Dominique amplifies this crisis as it translates to her beliefs in peace and equality for all. She once said “I could not live without love, more importantly, respect” in a video for trans and non-binary visibility. This message translates in her art as each project she is involved in articulates the importance of inclusivity in the entertainment industry and society at large.  Instead of simply focusing on the marginalisation of trans communities, Jackson urges transphobes to interrogate why they feel the way that they do because she knows that she is not a problem. There is nothing wrong with being transgender. There is nothing wrong with being non-binary, gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, or pansexual. There is something wrong with people that think there is something wrong with not being straight. 

We absolutely recommend checking out all these remarkable people and remember to be intentional about loving and respecting others for who they are, not who you think they should be - including yourself. 

Sesetu Holomisa

"Until we accept that all oppressions are intersectional, everything we do will only be a scratch on the surfaces of the manifestations of imperialism. From the climate crisis, feminism and mental health issues to tackling human rights violations around the world, I would like to contribute to discourses on meaningful change through writing."
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