A while back, we did an article on a path breaking new show called “Shakti,” in which the protagonist, Soumya, is a transgender person. In it, we spoke about how Indian television is slowly but steadily graduating from hackneyed “Saas-Bahu” serials to shows that are more rooted in reality and address pertinent social issues and problems.
With shows like this entering the mainstream, it’s safe to say that the transgender debate has indeed come a long way. So with all this going on, let’s take some time to talk about a few real life transgender heroes that stand as role models not just for their community, but to all of us as well.
1. Caitlyn Jenner
While the “coming out” of Bruce Jenner, the renowned Olympian, came across as a shock to all, we couldn’t help but applaud her courage and resolve in finally owning up to her true self. For her, life as a woman was simply a matter of acknowledging her mental state of mind. Since her coming out, she has undergone cosmetic surgery and officiated her name and pronoun to the world. Now she’s an advocate of transgender laws in the United States and is spreading the message of gender-positive identity.
2. Fox Fisher
After starring in a popular documentary ‘My Transsexual Summer’ in 2011, Fox Fisher co-founded My Genderation, an ongoing documentary project exploring gender variance. He’s also an ambassador for All About Trans; a project that “looks at creative ways to encourage greater understanding between trans people and media professionals to support better, more sensitive representation in the UK media.” But Fisher truly proved his genius when he spoke about the need for accurate media portrayals of the transgender community at a TEDx Brighton talk.
3. Janet Mock
“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act.”
Mock defied the odds of a difficult childhood in Hawaii and ultimately worked her way up to a good position in People magazine. In 2012, she was acclaimed for promoting the trans empowerment hashtag #GirlsLikeUs and since then became an activist, working on educational programming for LGBT students. Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More is Mock’s brainchild, also a New York Times best-seller and winner of the 2015 Women’s Way Book Prize.
4. Renee Richards
A star tennis player, Renee Richards made history by fighting the US Tennis Association’s decision to deny her entry into the Women’s Category for the 1976 US Open, and to use genetic testing as a condition of entry. In a landmark ruling for transsexual rights, the New York Supreme Court declared that the genetic testing method was grossly unfair and violated her human rights, also confirming her entry in the tournament.
5. Angela Morley
Angela Morley was an English composer and conductor who wrote scores for BBC radio shows, popular Hollywood films and TV shows. Even though many people think it was Laverne Cox, it was actually Morley who won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction, first in 1988, and again in 1990.
6. Laverne Cox
Most commonly known as Sophia Burset to die-hard “Orange Is The New Black” fans, Laverne Cox is yet another transgender personality to receive an Emmy nomination. From portraying the struggles of a transgender person in a women’s prison to openly speaking about the society’s unhealthy preoccupation with transgender people of colour, she has been quite an inspiration to those still in the closet. Her prominence in media has only fueled awareness on gender identity and we cannot thank her enough for it!
7. Kalki Subramaniam
A journalist, writer, actor and activist, Kalki holds two master degrees in Journalism and Mass Communication and International Relations. Now, she is India’s first transgender entrepreneur. Growing up, Kalki had a tough time convincing her family to accept her as she is, living like a gypsy for 15 years and never giving up. She wanted to be an example for the whole transgender community, inspiring them to live independently and with dignity.
So even though these heroes have given inspiration to millions of people and the transgender movement has come a long way, the journey ahead is still long and arduous. Millions of transgender people are victims of prejudice and hypocrisy, even to this day. Fortunately, things are taking a turn for the better. Here’s to a brighter, more tolerant future.