10 Breakthrough Moments for Transgender Positivity

From Normal and Transamerica to Jazz Jennings’ gig with Clean & Clear, 10 times the trans community spoke up proud and loud

Bruce Jenner’s jubilant public reveal of his transition to female marks another watershed moment for the transgender community, which has seen a slow but steady progression in acceptance and understanding over the past decade, says Amanda Kay, outreach coordinator for Gender Mosaic, a transgender support group in Ottawa. “I think we’re moving in the right direction,” she says.

There may still be a long way to go, but in celebration of that forward progression, here are 10 other recent breakthrough moments for the transgender community.

1. and 2. Hollywood offers up a trans heroinetwice

The 2003 film Normal, starring Tom Wilkinson as a man transitioning to female in mid-life, struck a deep chord in the trans community, says Kay, who remarks it was one of the first times a trans character wasn’t offered up for ridicule but rather painted as a real human being. “A number of people I’ve spoken to said they had to stop the movie along the way because it came so close to their own story that they were having an emotional time getting through it.”

Two years later, the trend continued with Transamerica (2005). Starring Felicity Huffman as Bree Osbourne, a male-to-female transsexual who discovers she fathered a son back in her male-identifying youth, it again humanized the plight of trans people and laid the groundwork for the series Transparent.

Felicity Huffman in Transamerica (Photo: Everett Collection)

Felicity Huffman in Transamerica (Photo: Everett Collection)

“Mom, you never had a son.” —Bree Osbourne (Felicity Huffman), Transamerica

3. Jenna Talackova competes in Miss Universe Canada

In 2012, Vancouver-born model Jenna Talackova successfully fought for her right to compete in Miss Universe Canada, becoming the first transgender contestant ever. She didn’t win the crown, but did take home the Miss Congeniality Award and established herself as a trans role model: her E! reality series Brave New Girls, which documents her life as a model in Toronto, premiered in January 2014.

Jenna Talackova (Photo: Getty Images)

Jenna Talackova shows her Canadian passport stating she is female at a press conference (Photo: Getty Images)

“There’s a huge stigma against transgender women. Most people were just interested in, like, my genitalia. But now I think people are seeing, through media and other transgender women in media, that we are normal girls and we live normal lives and we’re all the same at the end” Jenna Talackova, Toronto Star

4. A Navy SEAL makes a public transition

Former Navy SEAL Kristin Beck (born Christopher Beck) came out as a transgender woman in 2013, documenting her journey in the film Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story. But she isn’t stopping there. She’s now running for U.S. Congress in the state of Maryland.

Transgender former US Navy Seal Senior Chief Kristin Beck (Photo: Getty Images)

Transgender former U.S. Navy Seal senior chief Kristin Beck (Photo: Getty Images)

“The bearded SEAL Team Guy you see in those old photos is the same person you see in front of you now. The clothing  or gender doesn’t change my soul.” —Kristin Beck in Lady Valor

5. Janet Mock’s 2014 trans girl memoir becomes a bestseller

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More became a New York  Times bestseller and established the advocate and former People.com editor as a prominent and necessary cultural voice. Mock also appeared on the season finale of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday this past weekend. “I think there’s a lot of power in saying that I will proudly and unapologetically embrace that part of my identity… that I was taught growing up to be silent and shamed about,” Mock said in an interview Oprah credited with giving her “lots of AHA moments.”

Janet Mock (Photo: Getty Images)

Janet Mock (Photo: Getty Images)

“The space of suffering, I struggle with, because I’m part of a community that’s so steeped in trauma. A lot of people talk about trans women of color and the violence that we deal with. But when we’re together, we don’t talk about that… When we get together, we wanna talk about Beyoncé and have a couple cocktails, you know?”Janet Mock, Rookie magazine

6. Jazz Jennings gives a voice to trans kids and teens

Fourteen-year-old Jennings first captured audience attention when she came out as a transgender girl in a 2007 interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20. Her latest coup: starring in Clean & Clear’s viral ad campaign See the Real Me. The YouTube sensation—her “I Am Jazz” videos document her life—gives voice to a generation of kids and parents in similar situations. But that’s just the beginning. Her TLC docu-series, All That Jazz, is slated for this summer.

Jazz Jennings (Photo: Everett/REX_Shutterstock)

Jazz Jennings (Photo: Everett/REX_Shutterstock)

“This year I will have the courage to put myself out there more and share my story because I know it’s helping other people and creating change”Jazz Jennings

7. Transparent takes home two Golden Globes

The acclaimed Amazon series Transparent made history in January when it took home the Golden Globe for Best Television Series—Comedy or Musical and its star Jeffrey Tambor was honoured for his portrayal of Maura Pfefferman, a transgender woman coping with the difficulties of transitioning mid-life.

The Transparent team at the Golden Globes,  Actor Jay Duplass, producer Jill Soloway, actor Jeffrey Tambor and actress Judith Light (Photo: Getty Images)

The Transparent team at the Golden Globes, from left: actor Jay Duplass, producer Jill Soloway, actor Jeffrey Tambor and actress Judith Light (Photo: Getty Images)

“This is big. This is much bigger than me” —Jeffrey Tambor accepting his Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Series, Comedy or Musical

8. Laverne Cox makes the cover of Time

Laverne Cox has a lot of firsts: the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy for her performance as Sophia Burset on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, the first transgender actress to win a Daytime Emmy (for her MTV doc, Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word) and the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine.

laverne cox time

“We should have representations that humanize our experiences and tell the diversity and the complexity of our experiences” Laverne Cox, Time

9. Bruce Jenner comes out as trans

After months of speculation, former Olympian Bruce Jenner publicly revealed to ABC’s Diane Sawyer, that, “for all intents and purposes, I’m a woman.” Nearly 17 million people tuned in to watch the decathlete take out his ponytail and symbolically shake off 65 years of shame. “I think he sent out a very positive message about trans people as a whole and something the public will catch on to,” says Kay. “Education is such an important issue.”

(Photo: ABC 20/20 Facebook)

(Photo: ABC 20/20 Facebook)

“Shall I take my ponytail out?”  —Bruce Jenner, 20/20

10. Andreja Pejić lands beauty contract, models for Vogue

Australian model Andreja Pejić has shown striking fluidity in her approach to living as a transgender female. As a runway model, Pejic has walked as both a man and a woman, and she’s just been named as the new face for Make Up For Ever. But her greatest accomplishment  may be making it into Vogue’s May 2015 issue; a feat that marks the first time the magazine has featured a transgender model.

Andreja Pejic (Photo: Getty Images)

Andreja Pejić (Photo: Getty Images)

“There are just more categories now. It’s good. We’re finally figuring out that gender and sexuality are more complicated” —Andreja Pejić, Vogue

Related: Laverne Cox on OITNB and trans activism