Famous Black Transgender Woman

Whether you are in a transitional period and looking for inspiration from women who paved the way or would like to educate yourself about how transgender rights have evolved, there are few places better to start than by looking at the famous black women who have fought to make transgender identities a part of the global consciousness.

  • Laverne Cox - Trans Rights Activist and Actress
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    If you've watched Netflix for any time over the last few years, you are sure to have seen the strikingly beautiful Laverne Cox.

    Cox played one of the standout characters on the iconic series, Orange Is The New Black, about life for inmates within a female prison.

    As a trans activist, this famous black transgender woman is now an executive producer of the Netflix documentary Disclosure and featured on Time magazine's front cover in 2014. The cover was titled 'The Transgender Tipping Point' - and it seems like that is precisely what Cox has become.

    Cox was the first openly trans woman to be nominated for an Emmy award as an actress and has hosted countless events and concerts, blazing the trail for transgender women worldwide.

  • Sir Lady Java - Transgender Activist, Dancer, and Performer
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    Lady Java is one of the first famous black transgender women to challenge out-dated laws and made waves back in the 1960s by taking on the might of the Los Angeles Police Department, who were trying to shut down her shows under the infamous Rule Number 9.

    While the police won, Java didn't go down quietly. She picketed the club where she had been due to extend a successful run of shows and took the police to court with the American Civil Liberties Union's support.

    That case was also thrown out - but Java was a pioneer for taking on the establishment head to head and using her celebrity to make her voice heard.

    A movie (title to be confirmed!) is being made by director Anthony Hemingway, starring Hailie Sahar, to tell the story of how Lady Java changed the game.

  • Marsha Johnson - Founder of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries
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    Johnson might be better known as Marsha 'Pay it no Mind' Johnson - a quote made famous as something Marsha often said when asked about her middle name.

    Having passed away in 1992, Johnson was another famous black transgender woman who bucked the trend and was one of the pioneers of the LGBTQ+ movement back in 1969 when such a concept didn't exist.

    She founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries back in 1970. She dedicated her life to helping young transgender people who were homeless - something pervasive in New York City at the time when laws were prohibitive and little support existed.

    This story ends tragically, with Johnson's murder in 1992, at the young age of 46. Taken too soon, Johnson's fighting spirit endured, and although the NYPD classified her death as a suicide, her supporters successfully campaigned for the case to be reopened in 2012.

  • CeCe McDonald - Trans Activist
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    CeCe is a well-known and highly respected activist, working tirelessly to raise awareness of violence experienced by trans black women and highlighting discrimination.

    In 2012, McDonald was assaulted, a direct victim of the violence she seeks to abolish, and defended herself in stabbing a man - who later died from those injuries. In a perverse turn of justice, McDonald was sentenced to 41 months in prison for having defended herself and was forced to serve that sentence in a male prison.

    Aged just 23 at the time, CeCe served her sentence and went on to focus on dismantling the PIC (prison industrial complex) as a fierce survivor of transphobic violence.

  • Patricio Manuel (Cacahuate) - Professional Boxer
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    Finally, no list featuring a famous black transgender woman would be complete without mention of Patricio Manuel. Unlike our other bios, Manuel is a male transgender person and went from an Olympic Trialist in the US Olympic Women's Boxing Team to an openly transfer male boxer.

    He is the first trans man ever to beat a CIS man in amateur male boxing and became the first transgender boxer to compete on a professional level in the US - and win - in 2018.

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