1 Nisho

Sadie Transgender Essay

Y’all are probably familiar with the dearth of positive trans representation out there in the world, and also the oft-problematic situation in which the few trans women characters that do exist are rarely portrayed by actual trans actresses. Those roles usually go to cis men, and often go to cis women. This issue has gotten increasing attention over the last few years as high-profile trans female roles have been snagged by cis male actors like Eddie Redmayne, Jared Leto and Matt Bomer. There’s no need for this to happen when there are so many trans actresses out there who are ready and willing to do the work, as explained in a video released last month in which trans actors demand Hollywood cast trans actors in trans roles. “We’re not saying that cis people can’t ever play trans parts,” the video declares, “Just that right now, in this culture, there are consequences: bad ones.”

I recently witnessed a trivia game in which a group of queer people were unable to name more than three trans actresses (which sadly is two more than most Americans can name). Nothing makes me more bananas than seeing human beings incorrectly answer questions I know the answer to, which’s why I was VERY popular in elementary school. BUT SERIOUSLY that situation is what inspired me to make this list, a process through which I learned about so many women I’d never heard of before. Probably neither have you!

So, here we are: 55 trans actresses y’all should know and love and that we’ll hopefully see on some screens or stages more often than we do currently.

Alexandra Billings

Alexandra Billings in “How To Get Away With Murder”

Alexandra Billings is brilliant barrier-busting actress, cabaret performer, director, activist and playwright. She’s one of the first trans women to ever play a trans woman on television, and she’s since popped up on shows like How to Get Away with Murder, Grey’s Anatomy, ER and Eli Stone; as well as playing Davina, Moira’s HIV-Positive best friend, on Transparent. 

Alexandra Grey

Alexandra Grey in “Code Black”

Grey’s first role was as a Dancer on the TV series Braxton Family Values in 2011, and she went on to snag a featured role as Lisa Knight in the TV series Jess Like Me as well as parts in a bunch of other TV shows and movies, including Chasing Life, DTLA, All About Lizzie, Glee, Transparent, Code Black, Chicago Med and Doubt. She played the legendary Marsha P. Johnson in Drunk History: Bar Fights and Seville inWhen We Rise.

Alexis Del Lago

Prior to her appearance on Transparent in 2014, Del Lago’s last big acting job was in the TV show Wings in 1997. She’s also a costume designer, makeup artist and filmmaker.

Amanda Lepore

Amanda Lepore is a legend. She’s perhaps best known as a former Club Kid and the muse of photographer David LaChapelle. She’s also a singer, a performance artist, a model and an actress who appeared in movies like Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild!, Party Monster, Zoolander and Sex and the City.

Aneesh Sheth

Sheth played Kami Sutra on the TV series Outsourced as well as appearing in several shorts, the TV series Crave, and the documentaries Blow Out, In the Life and Mores for Gays. She’s a singer with a BFA in Musical Theater who toured in many theaterical productions prior to coming out as trans. After coming out, she worked as a volunteer at The Trevor Project and has been active in theater, including a recent turn in the Public Theater’s production of Southern Comfort.

Angel Qinan

Angel Qinan is a Filipina model and actress known for The Fosters,The Real O’Neals, Transparent, NCIS: Los Angeles, Crossing Fingers and Strut. She made her runway debut as the first transgender model in Sacramento Fashion Week and has since walked for New York Fashion Week and performs with the Trans Chorus Los Angeles.

Angelica Ross

Angelica Ross in “Her Story”

Ross, an activist and the founder and CEO of anti-poverty program TransTech Social Enterprises, starred in Her Story and also has a recurring role on the upcoming female-fronted TNT comedy Claws, and did guest spots on Doubt and Danger & Eggs. She won a GLAAD Award in 2017 for an episode of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and a 2016 Human Rights Campaign Visibility Award.

Annie Wallace

Wallace, a Scottish actress, made history in 2015 when she became the first transgender person to play a regular transgender character in a British Soap opera when she earned the role of Sally St. Claire in Hollyoaks. She’s also appeared in Shameless and Dream On, and is a composer.

Arisce Wanzer

A model best known for being featured on the Oxygen Reality TV show Strut, she also played Kristal in the TV series Cheetah in August as well as roles in several other Film/TV projects.

Bethany Black

This British stand-up comedian played Helen in the TV series Cucumber/Banana and appeared in a 2015 episode of Doctor Who. She also played herself in the TV series documentary short Tofu. She describes herself as “Britain’s only goth, lesbian, transsexual comedian.”

Bianca Leigh

Bianca Leigh in “Trans Scripts”

Leigh made her film debut in 2015’s Transamerica, played Karma Johnstone in Hurricane Bianca, and had a guest spot on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She appeared onstage in the U.S. premiere of “Trans Scripts” this past January.

Bianca Von Krieg

Bianca Von Krieg in the “Faces of Muni” Campaign

Bianca Von Krieg is an actual baroness with degrees from Stanford and MIT who has appeared in 2 Broke Girls, Murder in the First, Looking, Glee and several independent films.

Calpernia Adams

Actress, producer, editor, writer, director and activist Calpernia Adams has been in a lot of shorts and TV shows, like Hey Qween, In the Moment, Transproofed and Transamerica. Her production company, Deep Stealth, creates educational and entertainment material around gender-identification issues. She has also performed in all-transgender and mixed-status productions of The Vagina Monologues and was the lady-looking-for-love in the 2008 Logo TV series Transamerican Love Story.

Candis Cayne

Actress Candis Cayne attends the 27th Annual GLAAD Media Awards

Cayne is one of the first actresses I ever interviewed on a red carpet and she was so incredible and nice and I will always love her for that. Also! In addition to being cool, she played Carmelita Rainer on the great but short-lived TV series Dirty Sexy Money, Alexis Stone on Nip/Tuck, Ms.Hudson on Elementary, and has shown up in a dozen or so other TV shows and various films AND also some reality TV shows, like I Am Cait, RuPaul’s Drag Race and Hey Qween.

Carlie Guevara

Carlie is making her film debut in the 2018 movie “The Garden Left Behind,” in which she plays Tina, an undocumented woman who emigrated from Mexico with her grandmother as a child and now want to stay and transition, while her grandmother longs to return. Carlie is also an artist/photographer.

Carmen Carrera

(Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/Geisler-Fotopres/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

Model Carmen Carrera had a three-episode turn on The Bold and the Beautiful and appeared in the show Jane the Virgin as well as playing herself in RuPaul’s Drag Race, Cake Boss and Couples Therapy.

Caroline Cossey

Cossey would’ve had a very different career if she’d been born in a different era — but, alas, her on-screen debut in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only led Caroline, a very popular model who appeared on the cover of Vogue, to be outed as transgender. The ensuing press hounding thrust her into a deep depression. She appeared in the Duran Duran music video “Rio” in 1992, and in Power Station’s “Some Like it Hot” in 1986, and also was the first transgender woman to appear in Playboy. In the early ’90s she appeared on Donahue, The Joan Rivers Show, The Howard Stern Show and The Geraldo Rivera Show, and was in 2016’s The Trans List.

CeCe Suazo

CeCe appeared plays including the Off-Broadway production of “Incongruence” at the New York Theater Workshop and “Street Children” at the Vertigo Theater Company. She directed “A Month of Sundays” Off-Broadway and played the Senator’s Mistress on Adult Swim’s “Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell.” She got her start as Cinna in the Los Angeles Shakespeare Company’s production of Julius Caesar.

Clair Farley


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