For years, movies and TV shows lacked proper representation of trans people. Storylines for trans characters were often negative, if included at all, and it was common to see these characters portrayed by cis actors, rather than by performers who actually know what it’s like to transition. Recently, though, trans representation in media has been (slowly) on the rise. Earlier this month, MJ Rodriguez became the first transgender performer to be nominated for an Emmy. Representation is so important, and it’s celebrities like MJ that help young trans people feel supported and accepted into main stream society. So, let’s take a minute to recognize some trans celebrities who are changing the face of Hollywood and beyond and living their truth while doing so.
“I kept, on Instagram, a diaristic time capsule instead—one that shows a body living in a more fluid space,” she explained about her decision to continue posting on social media. “However, I’ve learned as a public-facing person that my refusal to clarify can strip me of the freedom to control my own narrative. With this medical transition, there has been discourse about my body, and it began to feel overwhelming. So, recently I looked to examples of others who have come out as trans. There’s the version I couldn’t really afford to do, which is to disappear for two years and come back with a new name, new face and new body. But that’s not what I wanted.”
In December 2020, Eliot revealed on social media that he is trans and goes by he/they pronouns. “I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life,” he wrote. “I feel overwhelming gratitude for the incredible people who have supported me along this journey. I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self. I’ve been endlessly inspired by so many in the trans community.”
They ended their note, writing, “I love that I am trans. And I love that I am queer. And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive. To all trans people who deal with harassment, self-loathing, abuse, and the threat of violence every day: I see you, I love you and I will do everything I can to change this world for the better. Thank you for reading this. All my love, Elliot.”
Hunter’s portrayal of Jules in Euphoria is an example of the importance of trans representation for teens. In the show, Jules is very open about her identity and is confident in herself.
Still, Hunter believes the media still has a long way to go when it comes to trans representation. “There need to be more roles where trans people aren’t just dealing with being trans; they’re being trans while dealing with other issues,” she told Variety. “We’re so much more complex than just one identity.”
The former Dance Moms star came out as trans on TikTok in May 2021. She later told Seventeen that she decided to come out so publicly with the hope that it would help other young people who might be questioning their gender identity.
“I think about what I would have needed at age 12 and it’s someone saying it’s OK to not know who you are right now,” she said. “Even if there’s just one person out there who’s wondering or struggling and they watch the video or read this and it makes them feel better. That’s the goal.”
Josie opened up about her transition in an essay in Time Magazine in 2018. “This is not a choice that I made,” the Glee actress said. “When I was five, long before I understood what the word gender meant, I would always tell my mother that I wished I were a girl. Since I could speak in full sentences, I was like, ‘Give me a dress!’ I always knew on some level that I was female.”
Josie said “it crystallized” for her when she watched Jazz Jennings’ docuseries about transitioning called I Am Jazz. That’s when she talked to her mom, got on a hormone blocker and “hit the ground running.”
“When my friends and family call me Josie, it feels like I’m being seen,” she said. “It’s something everyone wants, to feel understood.”
If you recognize Zión, it’s because she’s currently staring as Luna in the new Gossip Girl reboot on HBO Max. Luna is actually the first trans character in the show’s history, but showrunner Joshua Safran said Luna’s identity won’t come up in the plot this season.
“I don’t know how oblique there is of a reference to it,” he told Variety. “But yeah, Luna is a trans woman in the show. We decided as writers that this isn’t a show that’s about how she became her authentic self. That’s just not our story. Luna is Luna to these people, and that’s that.”
It was Jazz’s honesty in her docuseries, I Am Jazz, that inspired Josie Totah and many other young people to begin their own transition. In an essay for Seventeen in 2015, Jazz said that telling her story to the world wasn’t “hard or scary.”
“I’ve always known that I’m a girl, and talking about it felt easy—I was just telling my truth,” she said.
MJ made history when she became the first trans performer nominated for an Emmy in a major category. The actress was recognized for her portrayal or Blanca in FX’s Pose.
“I’m feeling so many emotions. I’m feeling joy, and I’m feeling accomplished. I finally feel seen,” MJ told Deadline after the nomination. “I’m a girl hailing from Northern New Jersey who had dreams and aspirations like Whitney Houston, child. I never thought this could happen for me. I told myself no matter what happens, I’m going to keep going and never stop.”
Carolyn Twersky is an associate editor for Seventeen covering celebrities, entertainment, politics, trends, and health.
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