QUEER VOICES

10 Trans And Gender Non-Conforming People You Need To Know

Props to these pioneers who encouraged us to embrace our gender identities, however complex they may be.

As HuffPost Live wraps up its coverage of October's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history month, we'd be remiss if we didn't highlight some of the bravest pioneers within the queer community.

From all-star tennis players to young adults just trying to live as their preferred gender, feast your eyes on some (but certainly not all!) of the most notable trans people in history. 

1. Lili Elbe

Artist Lili Elbe first started living as a women in Copenhagen in the early 20th century and began undergoing gender confirmation surgery in the 1930s. Her fascinating story as one of the first people to reportedly undergo the surgery is now the subject of the upcoming film "The Danish Girl," in which she'll be played by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne. 

2. Christine Jorgensen

After a short stint in the U.S. military, Jorgensen made headlines -- i.e. "Ex-GI becomes blonde beauty!" -- in 1952 when she returned to America from Denmark after transitioning under the care of a Danish doctor who had been experimenting with hormones. Jorgensen proceeded to have a long career in the spotlight as one of the first publicly out trans women in the country. 

3. Billy Tipton
Born in 1914, American jazz musician Billy Tipton led popular dance bands in the 1940s and 1950s. Yet those who were closest to the talented pianist and saxophone player -- even several women who considered themselves to have been married to him -- were not aware he was transgender until his death in 1989.

4. Reed Erickson

Born in El Paso, Texas in 1917, Erickson was an engineer, businessman, philanthropist and trans man. He began to transition in 1963 and underwent gender confirmation surgery in 1965. He used his large personal fortune from his successful business ventures to establish the Erickson Education Foundation
5. Sylvia Rivera
Transgender activist Sylvia Rivera was said to be on the front lines during the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The native New Yorker was a tireless advocate for the rights of trans people of color and co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in 1970 with her friend Marsha P. Johnson, another pioneer in the transgender community. 

6. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

This transgender activist started fighting for the rights of trans women of color in the 1960s. Her advocacy work has focused on prison rights and police brutality against trans women of color, and she currently serves as the executive director of the Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP)

7. Renee Richards

Richards' private transition in 1975 threatened her prolific tennis career when she was told she couldn't compete in the 1977 U.S. Open. She successfully sued the United States Tennis Association for gender discrimination with help from Billie Jean King. While Richards didn't win the tournament, she was able to continue her tennis career until her retirement in 1981.

8. Brandon Teena

In 1993, 21-year-old Teena was brutally raped and murdered in Nebraska because of his gender identity. Some have called his tragic death a seminal moment for pushing advocacy for the trans community forward. Teena's story later became the critically-acclaimed 1999 movie, "Boys Don't Cry," starring Hilary Swank as Teena. 

9. Leslie Feinberg

In 1992, Feinberg's first novel Stone Butch Blues broke ground for its sensitive exploration of the complexities of gender. Feinberg continued to push the discourse about transgender liberation forward with numerous publications including Trans Liberation and Transgender Warriors.

10. Justin Vivian Bond

Transgender performance artist and activist Justin Vivian Bond, who famously uses the title "Mx." and pronoun "v," was dubbed the "best cabaret artist" of v's generation by The New Yorker in 2011. The Tony-nominated performer still regularly entertains audiences at New York City's Joe's Pub. 

Join the conversation! What transgender pioneers come to mind for you? And click here for our lists on the gay, lesbian and bisexual leaders of their respective communities. 

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