Recently I read pieces on The Huffington Post that gave the viewpoints of two people: One is transgender and transitioned after getting married, and the other is her former spouse. Many of the themes were very familiar to me because of my own recent history. Married for almost 13 years. Three children. Feelings of hurt, anger and betrayal. Almost everyone who knew me was shocked when I came out, because of the extremely masculine persona I had carefully cultivated since I joined the Navy in 1993.
The comments section below the HuffPost piece about Chiristine Benvenuto is very long, with more than 750 comments. A number of themes in the comments section kept jumping out at me, over and over again. Many people observed that each piece only represented one side of the story, and that it was difficult to discern what really happened. As someone who has remained married through transition, I saw an opportunity for us to give a more unified perspective. After I drafted this article, Janis, my spouse, edited and added to what I wrote. She made sure it reflected her viewpoint accurately when answering the most frequent themes, questions and opinions expressed in the comments.
"Does the spouse/partner have a right to be angry?"
Yes. She is grieving for all the dreams of a future she once had. She is grieving for a person who no longer exists, or perhaps never did at all. She is grieving for the loss of a marriage, of a husband, of a father, and all the possibilities that went with it. Simple things are lost, too. Holding hands in public went from being a harmless sign of affection to an act of societal defiance. All this is a normal part of the grieving process, as are bargaining, denial and, hopefully in the end, acceptance.
Janis admitted that her two initial feelings when I came out were, "You lied to me, you bastard," and, "How could I be so stupid that I didn't see this?" She is still working through the process of grieving. In the end we're both in a position where we are better off with each other, though. We worked hard to build a life together, and we were not going to give up on it.
"Transitioning is selfish."
Transition is an inherently selfish process. It only directly benefits the one who is transitioning. Others who benefit from it in some way do so as a secondary effect. For instance, transitioning allowed me to be a more empathetic and involved parent. This has benefited my children, but it was not the point of my transition.
Still, it must be noted that transitioning has the potential to be better for all parties involved than not transitioning. A miserable spouse, a divorce, single parenthood and diminished quality of life for all concerned were the likely outcomes if I failed to transition.
"It was selfish to wait X years before telling your spouse/partner."
Imagine growing up with terrible secret. Imagine growing up Mormon and expecting your parents to send you to a reparative therapy camp or cast you into the streets if you told them. Imagine that if you held on to the secret, you would have a chance at a career you always wanted, a spouse you always dreamed of and children you both hoped for. Now imagine that giving up this secret would likely cost you everything: career, family, children, even your own dignity as a human being.
In the 1990s, during the Monica Lewinski scandal, many people were willing to excuse President Clinton for lying about an affair, because they understood that it was an embarrassing secret. Then why is it so hard to understand lying to yourself, and to others, about a secret that is far more terrifying?
Put simply, coming out as transgender can feel like playing Russian roulette with five chambers loaded and only one empty. Is it any wonder that we don't want to pull the trigger?
As it happened, coming out to my spouse was wrenching for both of us, and it took the better part of six months for each of us to convince the other that we didn't want to leave. We were going to give it our best shot, whatever came. Still, neither of us has ever seen a statistic on how often spouses stay together through transition, but we know the number isn't high.
"How is a spouse/partner supposed to react?"
The short answer is that both the trans person and their partner need to give each other time and space to explore what they are feeling. There is no right and wrong, although feelings associated with the grieving process seem to be normal.
It is unreasonable to expect most marriages to survive such an upheaval. Many transgender people seem to have unrealistic expectations of how much their partner can accept, and how quickly. Many partners have a similarly unrealistic expectation that a trans person can just bottle it up and pretend that the dysphoria is not there indefinitely.
In the end the right thing to do for both parties is to communicate effectively and work together to minimize harm to each other and the children. Often the best place to do this is in the presence of a therapist. However, there aren't any manuals on how to get through this, and we usually felt like we were picking a direction and hoping for the best.
"Why would a spouse/partner stick around?"
There are a lot of reasons that we are still together. Most of them revolve around Janis' ability to frame the issue in a way that she could understand as a person with a background in biology and psychology. It helped her to learn about the issue based on current scientific thinking, and to frame it as a medical issue rather than a psychiatric or moral one, the same way the APA and the AMA do. When she approached it from this perspective, as most of the medical and psychiatric community does, she was able to see it as helping a family member through a medical problem. Though gender dysphoria wasn't part of the bargain when we got married, "in sickness and in health" was.
Neither of us is particularly religious, so it helped that we were not predisposed to seeing this in terms of theology or dogma.
She also looked at it from a practical standpoint. Leaving me would not improve the situation for anyone, including the kids. It also didn't seem "right" to bail out on me just when I was getting my act together as a human being.
Still, having a spouse who approaches the issue this way is unusual. I cannot say that the reason that we are still together has much to do with anything I did; it is much more a result of Janis' ability to break down problems in a rational way.
"Couldn't you have waited until the children grew up?"
Who can forget Zach Wahls telling the Iowa House of Representatives about growing up with two moms? He turned out well in a nontraditional family. Jennifer Boylan transitioned when her boys were younger, and they have become exemplary young men, as well. I have also personally met the children of people who transitioned when their children were younger, and these children were not having adjustment issues. However, when I was working with my wife and my therapist, trying to figure out the right thing to do, I couldn't forget other articles written by adults whose parents transitioned later in life. It seemed like these adults were having a very hard time adapting to their parent's transition.
In the end we all agreed that waiting would only make it harder on the children in the long run. The more time they spent getting used to me as a male, the worse it would be when I shifted. However, growing up in a family that appeared to be lesbian would be less traumatic, especially for the younger ones, who would remember very little (if any) about the time prior to transition.
"What about the children? Didn't you think of them?"
This is hard. We did think of the kids constantly. We have three, and they were 9, 6 and 2 when I transitioned. They were always a huge part of the equation. There were no cut and dried answers. No how-to books. No perfect solutions. This was a difficult situation no matter how you looked at it. What we could do, as adults, as parents who love our kids, was work together to find a path that minimized harm. Both Janis and I do think about the things our children have lost: about not having a father to walk our daughters down the aisle, about the loss of a male role model (however poor he was), about the loss of being perceived as living in a "normal" house.
Still, while we now form a nontraditional family, the girls are thriving. Our middle child is the kind of kid every teacher dreams about, and our oldest is coping with the changes in a thoughtful, earnest manner. Though some might see transition in a completely negative light where the children are concerned, we can't help but see it having some value as a life lesson in love, diversity, tolerance and the importance of being yourself.
"Didn't you think of what this would do to your partner/spouse and children?"
Of all the guilt and angst I felt about being trans, one of the hardest things for me to deal with was all the unknowns of how my spouse and children would suffer as a result of what I did because of factors beyond all our control. Would people pull their girls out of Janis' Girl Scout troops? Would teachers discriminate against our two oldest children? Would Janis' hard-won friends in the community still want anything to do with her? Would she still be allowed to participate in the community? Would the kids be treated the way they should be at school and in their activities?
We didn't know the answers to any of these things, and we went as far as to make some contingency plans to pull up stakes and move down the road to a very liberal community about 10 miles away if things went badly.
Thankfully, libertarian Midwestern values won out. The Girl Scout troops are growing. Janis' friends have stuck with her. She was asked to be treasurer of the local PTO. The girls' teachers have treated them, and our nontraditional little family, with dignity and respect. Our middle child is almost a prodigy and is flourishing in school.
Still, prior to transition, this was something I worried about constantly, but Janis and I came to realize that we could not control the actions of others.
"Why did you rush into it?"
It seems like a rush to everyone on the outside looking in. Coming out as transgender catches most people very much off guard when you lead a very masculine life up until that point. It leads people to ask whether we have thought this through, whether we have considered the consequences. To others it seems like a whim rather than something we wrestled with for decades.
What people didn't see behind the scenes was the years of therapy, the agonizing conversations and confessions with Janis and the constant lurching from one desperate gamble to the next as we tried to navigate our way through one of the most difficult situations imaginable for a couple. Every step was a risk that I dithered over, worrying relentlessly what the result would be.
A friend once told me that when you transition, everyone else transitions with you. When possible, I tried to give people time to adjust. Unfortunately, this past spring, I simply ran out of time and had to make things happen more quickly that I had intended. Despite the seeming suddenness of it all, there were a number of times Janis confessed that she wished I would just hurry up and get it all over with. Still, most of our friends and family have stuck with us through everything.
"Couldn't you have just kept doing what you were doing?"
By the time most trans people come out, they have been hanging on by their fingernails for years. When they come out to their spouses as trans, they have reached the end of their rope. Whatever coping mechanisms they had in the past are no longer working. In my case these coping methods were leading me down the path toward divorce. If there was another way, we would have found it.
The perception that there is a certain amount of "gleefulness" as people begin transition has some truth to it. Imagine being in prison for a couple of decades and suddenly dealing with the seemingly endless possibilities of being on the outside. The highly regimented life at the Naval Academy is a good analogy, too. After years of living in a highly regimented atmosphere, after graduation I saw a lot of people around me reveling in their newfound freedom. Sometimes that revelry wasn't particularly constructive or well thought-out, but it was natural and understandable.
"Seriously, you're going out wearing that?"
A lesbian friend once joked with me, "Everything I know about fashion I learned from my adopted gay family. My people aren't exactly known for their fashion sense."
"No worries," I replied. "Neither are mine."
There's more than a grain of truth to the latter part. Trans people have to find their style, and themselves, to some degree, much later in life. We never had a time in our lives when experimentation was possible or mistakes could be made without some sort of permanent harm being done to our images. Think of it this way: Who out there doesn't have a picture of themselves when they were 14 that they don't hate? Big hair, big '80s glasses, wearing way too much black during an emo or goth stage, too much flannel during the early '90s or skinny jeans that would make Olivia Newton-John wince?
Trans folk don't have the luxury of being 14 years old when they make their fashion mistakes. While it is natural that they make them, the piece of advice I would give (and was given) is that trans people should learn to dress and present themselves appropriately from non-trans people of a similar age and profession, not from each other. Unfortunately, most trans people make rookie mistakes as they learn, but at this stage in their lives, the stakes are a lot higher than just an old picture that they would rather never saw the light of day. Or Facebook.
"Couldn't you just take antidepressants and be happy being a [birth-assigned gender]?
If antidepressants cured gender dysphoria, don't you think most trans people would happily take the blue pill? No electrolysis, no surgery, no hormones, no social stigma, just... normalcy? If it worked that way the APA, the AMA, the World Professional Association of Transgender Health (WPATH) and other organizations would certainly make antidepressants the standard course of treatment, because it would be the path of least harm.
Simply put, just like being gay, there is no "cure" that will "fix" a transgender person. Reparative therapies don't work, and the only thing that seems to treat it effectively is working to align people's physical selves with their own mental self-image.
It isn't for lack of trying. Every kind of behavioral, aversive, therapeutic and pharmacological treatment you can imagine has been tried in the past as a cure for gender dysphoria. In the end none of them worked.
"Couldn't you just buy a sports car like everyone else having a midlife crisis?"
A midlife crisis is something that springs up quickly out of nowhere, something that wasn't there 10 years ago, much less two or three. Being trans isn't a midlife crisis; it is something we have been dealing with in quiet desperation for decades.
Plus, buying a car won't help. I had the muscle car in my college days. No cure there.
"You'll never really be a woman/man."
In the sense that I have XY chromosomes, broad shoulders and narrow hips, and in the sense that I never had and never will have a uterus and ovaries, I am not physically female.
But in the sense that I always saw myself as a woman and always had to fight to hide traits that would generally be considered more feminine than masculine, I am female. Therein lies the difference between sex and gender. One is defined by anatomy; the other is based on what's between your ears.
Almost everyone gets the concept of "woman's brain in a man's body." Those who do not understand seem to fall back on the mental disorder argument, which is not supported by experts in the field. Some people argue that being trans is a choice. This isn't supported, either, given the fact that there isn't a reparative therapy cure for gender dysphoria.
Still, am I female if I am seen as such by myself, others and the law? Would you treat someone differently if you learned they are transgender? Is that fair?
If all else fails, I would urge people to remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. How much effort does it take to treat people as the gender they wish to be treated as, when you would ask the same in return?
Also on The Huffington Post:
Award-winning filmmaker <a href="http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0905154/">Lana Wachowski</a>, who's best known for co-writing and -directing the "Matrix" trilogy with her brother, Andy Wachowski, was the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender in July 2012. The Chicago native recently released "Cloud Atlas" and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/lana-wachowski-transgender-cloud-atlas-director-reveals-pain-suicide-attempt_n_2009112.html">received the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award</a> in October 2012, where she delivered a revealing and heartfelt speech.
The son of Cher and Sonny Bono, Chaz publicly revealed <a href="http://www.tvguide.com/News/Chastity-Bono-Gender-1006849.aspx" target="_hplink">he was transitioning in 2009</a> and has since been one of the most visible members of the trans community. In May he published his memoir <em>Transition: The Story Of How I Became A Man</em>, and was previously a contestant on "Dancing With The Stars. He was also named one of <em>Out</em> magazine's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/08/chaz-bono-shows-off-his-stubble-in-out_n_1082303.html" target="_hplink">100 LGBT people of the year.</a>
Since coming out as transgender, former People.com editor <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/05/lgbt-history-month-transgender-janet-mock_n_1922470.html">Janet Mock</a> has become a prominent voice and face for the trans community. She's been named to The Grio's 100 most influential people and Sundance Channel's top 10 LGBT voices. In early November 2012, Mock was honored with the prestigious Sylvia Rivera Activist Award by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. She also recently released her memoir titled <em><a href="http://janetmock.com/books/" target="_blank">Redefining Realness</a></em>.
In 1952, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1989/05/04/obituaries/christine-jorgensen-62-is-dead-was-first-to-have-a-sex-change.html">Christine Jorgensen became the first widely known person to undergo gender confirmation surgery</a>. The late trans activist, who died at 62 in 1989, decided the intrigued media wouldn't dictate her image. Jorgensen openly spoke about her transition and once said, "I decided if they wanted to see me, they would have to pay for it." Before her transition, Jorgensen served as a clerk in the Army and in 1967 she released a memoir titled <em>Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Biography</em>.
Silveira is the lead singer of the band The Cliks. The Cliks made history as <a href="http://www.phinli.com/Talent/Profile/lucas-silveira" target="_hplink">the first band with an openly trans male leader</a> signed by a major record label, Tommy Boy Entertainment's imprint Silver Label. In 2009 he made history again as the <a href="http://www.chartattack.com/news/78485/avril-lavigne-lights-tegan-and-sara-cliks-franz-ferdinand-sloan-win-in-15th-annual-year-e" target="_hplink">first trans man to be voted Canada's Sexiest Man</a> by readers of Canadian music magazine <em>Chart Attack</em>.
The Brazilian supermodel was discovered by Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci when <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/lea-givenchys-transgender-star-brazilian-supermodel-undergoing-sex/story?id=11269995#.TsV9BGVPlcg" target="_hplink">he hired her as his personal assistant</a>. Soon after she became his muse and her modeling career began. She has been featured in high-profile fashion magazines like "Vogue Paris," "Hercules," "Interview," "Love," and "Cover."
Richards is an ophthalmologist, author and former professional tennis player. After transitioning in 1975, she <a href="http://www.tennispanorama.com/archives/9472" target="_hplink">was banned from playing in the U.S. Open</a> by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) because only biological women were allowed to participate in the tournament. Richards fought the ban and a 1977 New York Supreme Court decision ruled in her favor. She continued to play until 1981. This fall <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/27/renee-richards-film_n_854578.html" target="_hplink">a documentary about Richards's life</a>, "Renée," was released.
King was the first (and, thus far, only) <a href="https://www.facebook.com/isisking" target="_hplink">trans model to be featured</a> on the reality fashion competition "America's Next Top Model." She was seen on both the 11th and 17th cycles of the show.
In 2008 Thomas Beatie became famous when he revealed that he was pregnant with his first child. Soon after Beatie and his wife, Nancy, made headlines and he became known as "the pregnant man." The couple now has three children, all carried by Thomas, and he recently revealed that he is <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/31/pregnant-man-thomas-beati_n_1067326.html" target="_hplink">considering undergoing a hysterectomy.</a>
Dr. Marci Bowers is a <a href="http://marcibowers.com/" target="_hplink">pioneer in the field of gender confirmation surgery</a> and is the first known trans woman to perform these types of procedures. After practicing in Trinidad, Colo., which is known as the "sex change capital of the world" due to the high number of surgeries performed there, she moved her practice to San Mateo, California, in December 2010.
Cayne made history when she accepted a role on "Dirty Sexy Money" and became the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character in prime time. She's also appeared on "Nip/Tuck," "RuPaul's Drag Race," and "Necessary Roughness."
In 2006 Iwamoto was <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,229937,00.html#ixzz1eCixXAuI" target="_hplink">elected to a position on Hawaii's state Board of Education</a> and became (at the time) the highest-elected transgender official in the United States. She <a href="http://hawaii.gov/elections/results/2010/general/files/histatewide.pdf" target="_hplink">ran for re-election in 2010</a> and won. See a video of Iwamoto discussing her support of an anti-bullying bill in Hawaii by <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgqswbrLsRM">clicking here.</a>
Kye Allums was the <a href="http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2011/10/lgbt-history-month-kye-allums-first-openly-transgender-athlete/" target="_blank">first Division I openly transgender athlete</a> in NCAA sports history. Today, Kye is a transgender advocate and the founder of Project I Am Enough, a project dedicated to encouraging self-love and self-definition for everyone.
Jenna Talackova <a href="http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2012/04/jenna-talackova-i-was-born-in-the-wrong-body/">made headlines in April 2012</a> when she was booted from the Miss Universe Canada pageant. Talackova fought back and ultimately was allowed back into the competition. She spoke with Barbara Walters and said, "I feel like the universe, the creator, just put me in this position as an advocate," she continues. "If it's helping anybody else by sharing my story and with my actions, then I feel great about it."
A veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising (some claim she threw the first heel), Rivera fought for the rights of all queer people, not just those who fit into more homonormative molds. Described by Riki Wilchins as "<a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2002-02-26/news/a-woman-for-her-time/" target="_hplink">the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement</a>," Rivera founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, "a radical group that did everything from marching to setting up crash pads as an alternative to the streets," among other activist roles. Today <a href="http://srlp.org/" target="_hplink">The Sylvia Rivera Law Project,</a> which works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression regardless of income or race, and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/SYLVIAS-PLACE/156906310002" target="_hplink">Sylvia's Place</a>, a NYC emergency homeless shelter for LGBT youth, both exist to honor Rivera's life and work.
Tipton was a saxophone and piano player and bandleader popular during the 1940's and '50s. He eventually settled down in Spokane, Washington, got married, and adopted three sons. It wasn't until after his death from a <a href="http://news.stanford.edu/stanfordtoday/ed/9705/9705fea601.shtml" target="_hplink">hemorrhaging ulcer</a> that Tipton's gender at birth was revealed to his sons and the rest of the world.
Sanchez worked tirelessly in the LGBT community before he became the <a href="http://www.examiner.com/transgender-transsexual-issues-in-national/diego-sanchez-trans-man-on-capitol-hill-works-for-passage-of-inclusive-enda" target="_hplink">first trans person to hold a senior congressional staff position</a> on Capitol Hill. In December 2008 he began working for Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) tracking LGBT, healthcare, veterans and labor issues.
The transgender activist <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/lgbt-history-month-icon-laverne-cox_n_2011651.html">Laverne Cox</a> came to our attention when she first appeared on VH1's "I Want to Work for Diddy," which made her the first African-American transgender woman to be on a mainstream reality TV series. The show went on to win GLAAD's media award for outstanding reality program in 2009 where Cox accepted the honor and spoke about transgender visibility (VIDEO). Since appearing on Diddy's show, Cox got her own VH1 reality series, "TRANSform Me," which got its own GLAAD media award nomination in 2011. She then exploded within the entertainment industry after becoming a breakout star in the Netflix original series "Orange Is The New Black." The pioneer continues her advocacy in public engagements and frequently writes about trans issues for <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laverne-cox/"><em>The Huffington Post</em></a>.
The <a href="http://katebornstein.typepad.com/" target="_hplink">writer, playwright and performance artist</a> is the author of several seminal tomes on gender theory including 1994's <em>Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us</em>. In 2006 she also wrote <em>Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws</em>. Her first memoir, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Queer-Pleasant-Danger-Memoir/dp/0807001651"><em>A Queer And Pleasant Danger</em></a>, was published in May 2012.
The world's first female-to-male porn star, Angel also works as an advocate, educator, lecturer and writer. In 2007 <a href="http://buckangel.com/bio.html" target="_hplink">Angel won the Adult Video News Transsexual Performer of the Year</a> award and was written into Armistead Maupin's <em>Michael Tolliver Lives</em>, one of the novels in the <em>Tales Of The City</em> series. He has spoken around country, including an appearance at Yale University in 2010.
Rasmussen became the <a href="http://www.sturasmussen.com/realityCheck.htm" target="_hplink">first transgender mayor in the United States</a> when he was elected to the office in Silverton, Oregon in November 2008. He writes on <a href="http://www.sturasmussen.com/realityCheck.htm" target="_hplink">his website</a>: <blockquote>"I just happen to be [transgender] -- something I didn't even know the word for until I discovered it on the Internet. I've been a crossdresser or transvestite my whole life, only 'coming out' recently and thereby discovering that life goes on very nicely."</blockquote>
In 1976 <a href="http://www.lousullivansociety.org/about-lou-sullivan.html" target="_hplink">Lou G. Sullivan began applying for</a> gender confirmation surgery, but was rejected because he identified as gay. At the time, "female-to-gay male transsexuality was not recognized by the medical/psychotherapeutic establishment as a legitimate form of gender dysphoria at that time." After mounting a successful campaign to get homosexuality removed from a list of objections which served to keep interested candidates from undergoing surgery, Sullivan finally obtained gender confirmation surgery in 1986. That same year <a href="http://www.lousullivansociety.org/about-lou-sullivan.html" target="_hplink">he organized FTM</a>, "the first peer-support group devoted entirely to female-to-male [transsexual and transvestite] individuals."
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/lgbt-history-month-icon-chris-tina-bruce_n_1932941.html">Chris Tina Bruce</a> became the first transgender bodybuilding contestant to participate in a competition in San Diego in 2011. Bruce doesn't necessarily identify as male or female, rather as someone who sits in the middle of the gender spectrum. As a motivational speaker, fitness trainer and LGBT-rights activist, Bruce works to increase awareness of gender fluidity and was recently featured on National Geographic Channel's "Taboo: Changing Genders" in September.
Dr. Carys Massarella is likely the <a href="http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/626304--doctor-is-fighting-for-transgender-community">first transgender president of a hospital medical staff in the world</a>, working at St. Joseph’s Healthcare hospital in Ontario, Canada. The pioneering health care physician works to educate the medical world on trans issues and the best patient care services for trans individuals.
In October, Allyson Robinson, <a href="http://www.hrc.org/staff/profile/allyson-robinson">the Human Rights Campaign's first deputy director for employee programs</a>, became the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/25/allyson-robinson-transgen_n_2016086.html">leader of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and OutServe</a>, LGBT armed services support groups that merged. The transgender activist is an army veteran and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Her new appointment signals perhaps the next battle in transgender rights and visibility in the military.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/15/lgbt-history-month-icon-marsha-p-johnson_n_1955668.html">Marsha P. Johnson</a> (P for "Pay it no mind!") was a revered LGBT-rights activist and widely regarded mother figure who reached out and helped homeless NYC LGBT youth. She helped start S.T.A.R, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a group formed in the early '70s to feed street youth around the city. In the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Johnson fought back against the police raids, standing up against discrimination. Her death in 1992 was written off as a suicide by police, but many believe the late icon was a hate-crime victim.
A contestant on the popular reality TV show "RuPaul's Drag Race" season three, <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/tv/ct-red-carmen-carrera-q-and-a-20120606,0,3578043.story?page=1">Carmen Carrera</a> competed as a drag queen and later came out as a transgender woman in May 2012 via an episode of ABC's "What Would You Do?" (VIDEO). The 27-year-old Carrera <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/CarmenCarreraChannel">documented her transition process on her YouTube page</a>.
Dillon was the first person known to have transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male. A British writer, physician, philosopher, and Buddhist, Dillon penned several books including, <em>Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology</em> (1946), <em>Growing Up into Buddhism</em> (1960), <em>The Life of Milarepa</em> (1962), <em>Imji Getsul</em> (1962), and numerous articles. He was in love with another famous transgender person, Roberta Cowell, but she did not share his feelings. He died in India -- where he had moved to study, meditate, and wrote under the name Lobzang Jivaka -- just days after sending his memoir, "Out Of The Ordinary," to his literary agent.
Ali Forney was a NYC homeless transgender youth whose name has become known through the <a href="http://www.aliforneycenter.org">Ali Forney Center</a>, a NYC LGBT safe space and homeless shelter named in his memory. Forney, who was known as "Luscious" when presenting as a woman, was murdered in Harlem in the 1997.
Nong Ariyaphon Southiphong was formerly known as Andy South on "Project Runway" season eight. Southiphong <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/21/nong-ariyaphon-southiphon-project-runway-transgender-transition-_n_1904203.html">came out as a transgender woman in September 2012</a> and said, "I am blessed to be so accepted and welcomed just the way I am. May that love flow through me and onto many others. Live in love for the world needs it."
Singer-songwriter Our Lady J landed in the spotlight when her friendship with "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe became fodder for the gossip magazines in 2009. Since then, she's been featured in an <a href="http://www.out.com/entertainment/2010/08/08/daniel-radcliffe-and-our-lady-j-odd-couple">Out magazine cover story</a> with her British pal and has played sold out shows around the world. Her debut album is due out in early 2013.
<a href="http://www.paulinepark.com/about/">Pauline Park</a>, born in and adopted from Korea, has become a trailblazer for both the Asian and transgender communities. Her advocacy work includes co-founding and chairing the <a href="http://nyagra.com">New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy</a> group and starting the <a href="http://www.queenspridehouse.org/wordpress/">Queens Pride House</a> and Iban/Queer Koreans of New York organization. New York City honored Park by making her its <a href="http://iamkoreanamerican.com/2010/01/07/pauline-park/"">first openly transgender grand marshal for the 2005 Pride parade</a>.
<a href="http://www.oddee.com/item_98038.aspx">Balian Buschbaum</a> underwent gender confirmation surgery in 2008 after retiring from pole vaulting. Buschbaum was Germany's second best female pole vaulter and <a href="http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/bu/yvonne-buschbaum-1.html">competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games</a>. After his operation, <a href="http://malecelebbio.com/2012/03/09/balian-buschbaum/">Buschbaum said</a>, "Courage is the road to freedom. I woke up in complete freedom today. The sky is wide open."
<a href="http://www.law.mmu.ac.uk/academic-staff/">Stephen Whittle</a> is a professor of equalities law at Manchester Metropolitan University in the U.K. and has been a prominent transgender-rights activist. Whittle, who was recognized with the Order of the British Empire, was <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/7867780/So-I-had-a-sex-change.html">instrumental to the European Court of Human Rights' creation of the Gender Recognition Act</a>, legislation that allows trans people to change their legal gender. Whittle co-founded Press for Change, a lobbying group for trans individuals, and openly speaks about being transgender to his students. He said in a <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/7867780/So-I-had-a-sex-change.html">2010 article in a U.K. newspaper</a>, "I won’t stop until I have won equal rights for the trans community. We’ve still a long way to go."
Ben Barres is an openly transgender professor of neurobiology at Stanford University. The academic scholar boasts degrees from MIT, Dartmouth and Harvard and brings a unique perspective to gender roles in the scientific community, having gone through <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/12/AR2006071201883.html">gender confirmation surgery at 42</a> in 1997. He said his experience has given him a unique insight on the biases that women are less successful in science. In 2006, Barres <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/18/science/18conv.html?pagewanted=all">spoke with The New York Times</a> and said, "I am very different from the average person. But I have experienced life both as a woman and as a man. I have some experience of how both sexes are treated."
Grace is the lead singer of punk band Against Me! She publicly discussed her struggles with gender dysphoria this year, coming out as transgender. When she <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/29/against-me-transgender-laura-jane-grace-debut_n_1553356.html">announced the news at a concert</a> it was followed by the song "Transgender Dysphoria Blues." Speaking to <a href="http://www.rollingstone.com/">Rolling Stone</a> she said: "The cliché is that you're a woman trapped in a man's body, but it's not that simple. It's a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And It's shitty, man. It's really fucking shitty."
Anna Grodzka became <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2059043/Anna-Grodzka-Worlds-transsexual-MP-takes-seat-Polish-parliament.html">Poland's first transgender woman to serve on its parliament</a> when she was elected in 2011. On her victory, Grodzka said, "It is a symbolic moment, but we owe this symbolism not to me but to the people of Poland because they made their choice." The 58-year-old leader added, "They wanted a modern Poland, a Poland open to variety, a Poland where all people would feel good regardless of their differences. I cannot fail them in their expectations."
<a href="http://www.mhorton.net/prof.html">Mary Ann Horton</a> is a prominent computer scientist who spearheaded Usenet (one of the oldest computer network communications systems) and was one of the developers of Berkeley UNIX, which became Sun Microsystems' software platform. Not only is Horton a leader in business, but she is <a href="http://www.giganews.com/usenet-history/horton.html">a vocal diversity advocate</a>, speaking up for LGBT equality in the workplace. Horton chairs the <a href="http://www.tgender.net/taw/">"Transgender at Work"</a> project and is a board member of the national organization. <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mary_Ann_Hortonp.jpg"><em>Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons / Mary Ann Horton</em></a>
Cowell is the first British trans woman to undergo gender confirmation. She transitioned in 1951. Prior to that, she was a Spitfire pilot during World War II and a race car driver. Cowell, who was friends with transgender man Michael Dillon, transitioned a year before celebrated American trans woman <a href="http://www.transgenderzone.com/features/ChristineJorgensen.htm" target="_hplink">Christine Jorgenson</a> underwent surgery in Denmark. You can <a href="http://www.changelingaspects.com/Life Stories/Roberta Cowells Story.htm" target="_hplink">read Cowell's autobiography here</a>.
Comedian <a href="http://ianharvie.com/biography">Ian Harvie</a> is the world's first trans male comedian and was declared "most unique stand-up comic in the country" by <em>Frontiers</em> magazine. The Portland, Maine native <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ian-harvie">became Margaret Cho's opening act</a> for her fall 2006 tour and later produced and hosted his own self-titled live comedy show in Los Angeles. Harvie frequently works with LGBTQ fundraisers and mentors trans men around the nation.
Heather Cassils is a Canadian performance artist, body builder and personal trainer now living in Los Angeles. Unlike other artists working in more traditional mediums, Cassils uses her body to investigate issues related to gender, mass consumption and the industrial production of images, among others. Her conceptual pieces, which have been performed in museums and galleries around the world, also highlight transgender or "genderqueer" themes, like in "Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture," for which she spent 23 weeks documenting herself building her body to its maximum capacity by following a strict weightlifting regime, consuming the caloric intake of a 190-male athlete, and taking mild steroids. She also starred in Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video. Earlier this year Cassils <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/heather-cassils-creates-v_n_1660244.html">told The Huffington Post</a>: <blockquote>"If you're not going to exist as your biologically-assigned gender or you're not operating [as a transgender person] on one end of the gender spectrum, then you end up in that in between space, inviting that scrutiny... I'm trying to push or create a kind of visual language for my subjectivity -- trying to create visual options. You can tap into people's psyches and have them imagine things that they don't yet have words for. I think that's very powerful. I'm trying to create a slippery language, one -- much like my body -- that doesn't fit."</blockquote>
Writer-producer-director <a href="http://www.andreajames.com/biography.html">Andrea James</a> started her career making advertisements for Chicago companies but later moved into film and television, creating Deep Stealth Productions, a company that aims to produce more accurate portrayals of transgender issues. James is also known for voice coaching trans women. She worked with actress Felicity Huffman in her Oscar-nominated role in "Transamerica," and in 2008 she joined the board of directors of Outfest.
<a href="http://paul.jaquays.com/about.htm">Jennell Jaquays</a> is an American game designer and artist who has worked on titles such as "Dungeons & Dragons," "Age of Empires III" and "Halo Wars." Jaquays came out as a trans in December 2011, posting an open letter on her blog (<a href="http://www.facebook.com/notes/jennell-jaquays/jennells-journnall-outing-myself/194994110592589">also found on Facebook</a>), saying, "I have decided that I’m not going to hide, become invisible, or try and keep this a secret. That part of my transition is over. I have been a relatively high profile artist and game developer my entire career and I don’t see that changing because I am now acknowledging that I am, oh, by the way, transsexual."
The unmistakable iconic figure <a href="http://www.queenmother.tv/nyc/amanda/amanda_main.php">Amanda Lepore</a> has captured the media's attention for years. She is a living work of art, frequently featured as photographer David LaChapelle's muse. The New York City transgender nightlife entertainer's recent work includes singles "Champagne" and "My Hair Looks Fierce." Designer Jason Wu also made an Amanda Lepore doll.
Kim Petras <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1135724/From-Tim-Kim-German-pop-star-16-worlds-youngest-transsexual-sex-change-op.html">made headlines in 2009 as the "world's youngest transsexual,"</a> undergoing sexual reassignment surgery at 16 years old. Petras, a German pop singer, started taking hormones at 12. She <a href="http://newsroom.mtv.com/2009/02/05/kim-petras-formerly-tim-becomes-worlds-youngest-transsexual-pop-star/">released her first single, "Last Forever,"</a> which became a hit on YouTube.
<a href="http://www.unither.com/executive-officers">Martine Rothblatt</a>, chairman and chief executive officer of United Therapeutics Corporation (Unither), founded the company in 1996 and placed <a href="http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2011/fortune/1109/gallery.highest_paid_women.fortune/7.html">seventh on CNNMoney's 2011 "25 highest-paid women" list</a>. Prior to Unither, Rothblatt, who <a href="http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2010/0510/second-acts-pharmaceuticals-orphan-drugs-pah-deep-breaths.html">underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1994</a>, founded and chaired Sirius Satellite Radio. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/transhumanism/27983355/"><em>Photo Courtesy of Flickr User transhumanism</em></a>
In a role that earned Hilary Swank an academy award, the actress brought the story of <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=132702&page=1#.UJEiPUJAukA">Brandon Teena</a>, to life on the big screen in "Boys Don't Cry." The 1999 film was one of the first mainstream Hollywood productions that featured a trans person as its main character. Brandon Teena was raped by two men. He reported the attack to the police but wasn't taken seriously. Teena's assailants later murdered him on New Year's Eve 1993 as an act of revenge.
Eden Lane is the only known openly transgender mainstream television broadcaster in the U.S.</a> She hosts "In Focus with Eden Lane," a Colorado Public Television weekly program where Lane talks about the arts and culture. The affable journalist never sought out to be a role model, and until a recent <a href="http://www.denverpost.com/johnmoore/ci_21804703/denver-tv-host-eden-lane-opens-up-about?IADID=Search-www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com">October interview with the Denver Post</a>, Lane had not shared her own story. She also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/28/eden-lane-transgender-broadcast-journalist_n_2034538.html">spoke with <em>The Huffington Post</em></a> and said she didn't want her being transgender to overshadow her work. Lane started her career focusing on community affairs, reporting for PBS gay-issues news show "Colorado Outspoken" and for <em>Logo</em>.