The transgender community is frequently in entertainment news. The latest, of course, has to do with Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s highly controversial views regarding transgender rights and gender identity. In television, where the most intelligent conversations about queer issues is taking place,  transgender roles are often played by cisgender people (Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent, Paco Leon in The House of Flowers), much to the annoyance of the community. However there are a few fabulous folks who are pushing for representation and getting it. Here’s our hat tip to some of the most inspiring transgender actors.

RuPaul

RuPaul’s Drag Race, in which RuPaul searches for America’s next drag star, is creative, fun, fierce and a fabulous celebration of queer and drag culture. What makes the show so watchable and iconic are the phenomenal queens that grace it every season.  From Adore Delano to Ben De La Creme, Detox to Shangela, Katya to (the amazing) Bianca Del Rio, these ladies have sashayed their way into our hearts as they’ve slayed on the show with their talent and style.
Director: Nick Murray
Cast: RuPaul, Michelle Visage, Santino Rice, Ross Matthews
Seasons: 12 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
Streaming on: Netflix

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox (pictured above) burst onto the scene with her breakout role of transgender inmate Sophia Burset on Orange Is the New Black. A popular activist for transgender rights, in 2014, Cox made history for being the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in the acting category for this role. Cox’s Burset is friendly and helpful to her fellow inmates, but tough and hard-nosed when it comes to the prison administration. She can do wonders with makeup and hair products and she doggedly pursues what she wants.
Creator: Jenji Kohan
Cast: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Michelle Hurst, Jason Biggs, Uzo Aduba, Laverne Cox, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning
Seasons: 7 (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
Streaming on: Netflix

Ian Alexander

Ian Alexander is touted to be the first Asian-American transgender person to act on television. The actor plays Buck Vu on The OA, an inter-dimensional sci-fi series. He credits acting on the show for helping his family accept his identity. He told Ellen DeGeneres, “I think being on The OA actually helped them realise that I can be happy and successful as a trans person and queer person.”
Creator: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling
Cast: Brit Marling, Emory Cohen, Patrick Gibson, Ian Alexander, Phyllis Smith
Seasons: 2 (2016, 2019)
Streaming on: Netflix

Indya Moore

Pose is something of a phenomenon because most of the characters of the show are trans women playing trans women during the height of the AIDS epidemic in New York City. The show boasts five transgender actors namely MJ Rodriguez (Blanca Rodriguez-Evangelista), Indya Moore (Angel Evangelista) Dominique Jackson (Elektra Wintour), Hailie Sahar (Lulu Ferocity) and Angelica Ross (Candy Johnson-Ferocity). Pose is produced by transgender activist Janet Mock, as well as transgender writer, Lady J. The show not only gets it right but harks back to a time when being trans was more dangerous than it is today. Indya Moore started as a model but really tasted success when they were cast as Angel on Pose. Eventually, they became the first-ever trans model on the cover of Elle magazine.
Creators: Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Steven Canals
Cast: Evan Peters, Kate Mara, Mj Rodriguez, Dominique Jackson, Billy Porter, Indya Moore
Seasons: 2 (2018, 2020)
Streaming on: Netflix

Jamie Clayton

Jamie Clayton got her breakthrough role as one of the eight main characters in Sense8. She essays Nomi Marks, a trans woman, political blogger and hacker who lives in San Francisco and is one half of the show’s most adorable couple with Amanita Caplan (Freema Agyeman).
Creators: Lana and Lilly Wachowski, J. Michael Straczynski
Cast: Doona Bae, Jamie Clayton, Tina Desai, Tuppence Middleton, Max Riemelt, Miguel Ángel Silvestre, Brian J. Smith, Toby Onwumere
Seasons: 2 (2015, 2017)
Streaming on: Netflix

Asia Kate Dillon

Asia Kate Dillon portrays Taylor Mason a young, brilliant non-binary intern at Axe Capital known for their out of the box way of thinking in Billions. By playing Mason, Dillon has also become the first non-binary actor to play a non-binary character on television. Dillon has credited this role for helping them better understand their own identity.
Creators: Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Andrew Ross Sorkin
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Damian Lewis, Condola Rashad, Asia Kate Dillon, David Costabile
Seasons: 5 (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

Hunter Schafer

In Euphoria, Hunter Shchafer’s Jules Vaugh is in a complicated friendship bordering on courtship with her BFF Rue (Zendaya). Jules is trans, and while she does have her own share of struggles, her identity is not one of them.  Schafer told Variety “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. We’re so much more complex than just one identity.”
Creator: Sam Levinson
Cast: Zendaya, Maude Apatow, Eric Dane, Hunter Schafer, Jacob Elrodi, Alexa Demie
Seasons: 1 (2019)
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar

Alexandra Billings

Alexandra Billings holds the distinction of being the first openly transgender person to play a transgender character on television. This happened when she took on the role of Donna in television film Romy and Michele: In the Beginning in 2005. However, she’s best known for playing Davina in Transparent. The AIDS and LGBTQ activist feels there need to be more opportunities for trans actors so that their stories are told and people get to know them.
Creator: Jill Soloway
Cast: Jeffrey Tambor, Gaby Hoffmann, Jay Duplass, Amy Landecker, Judith Light, Kathryn Hahn, Alexandra Billings
Seasons: 5 (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019)
Streaming on: Amazon Prime

Buzz