Last week we talked about role models for transgender teens in the media. There are plenty of real-life transgender people out there for teens to look up to as well, and in this post we’ll be discussing a few of them.
It can be difficult, in a historical sense, to figure out who was transgender. Men’s and women’s roles were so rigid that it can be hard to tell exactly why a person switched genders. Perhaps they were truly transgender, or perhaps they wanted access to the privileges, rights, or customs of the other gender, or to love someone of the same gender more easily. For example, a woman might dress as a man to join the military and fight in a war, while a man might dress as a woman to avoid it.
However, some historical figures do seem to be truly transgender. Take the case of Dr. Alan Hart, born Alberta Lucille Hart in 1890. Dr. Hart was a very accomplished transgender physician and writer, living in a society that didn’t even coin a name for transgender issues until he was 30 years old.
An even more convincing case of a historical figure who was truly transgender is the talented jazz musician and bandleader Billy Tipton. Billy was born female, but lived life as a man so completely that even his romantic partners and adopted children didn’t know he had a female body.
An example of a male-to-female transgender pioneer is Marie-Pier Ysser, born male in 1935, who was a showgirl and dancer at Le Carrousel, and received both hormone treatment and transgender surgery. Later on she became a writer and a college professor. (Note that some of these pictures show her breasts.)
Anyway, I promised examples of transgender actors, musicians, authors, journalists, artists, politicians, athletes, and CEOs, and here they are:
Harmony Santana is an up-and-coming transgender actress who recently was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for her performance in Gun Hill Road (please note that this is a very dark and adult movie that I wouldn’t recommend for most teens.)
Tommy Gabel/ Laura Jane Gabel, the singer of a punk rock band called “Against Me!”, has recently come out as transgender. Tommy/ Laura is starting to transition, and her longtime wife has decided to stick with her through this transformation.
Charlie Jane Anders is a science fiction author who has won multiple writing awards. Her writing has also appeared in publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Mother Jones. In 2005, she also organized the first and only ballerina pie fight that, to my knowledge, has ever existed.
Ina Fried is a technology writer who wrote for CNET for many years, and is also a technology commentator on NPR.
Jeffrey Catherine Jones was a talented painter who died last year. Her work was well-known in fantasy and comic circles.
Dylan Orr, a Seattle native and UW graduate, holds the honor of being the first transgender person appointed to a political position by a U.S. President. He is the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Disability Employment Policy.
Another interesting politician, and a great example of how transgender people are not always “this or that”, is Stu Rasmussen, the mayor of Silverton, Oregon. Stu identifies as a heterosexual male who wants to appear female.
Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics, has been involved with many successful companies. This article in Forbes illustrates how she became interested in “orphan drugs” when her daughter was diagnosed with a rare condition.
Lynn Conway has galleries of MTF and FTM transgender people who are not necessarily famous or well-known, but successful and happy with their lives- just in case your teen needs a few more real-life examples of transgender people who can be a role model for their future.
There are many transgender role models I haven’t mentioned; who are some of your favorites?