Great performances by trans entertainers

Great performances by trans entertainers

Great performances by trans entertainers to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility

Celebrate some of the best showcases of transgender actors from TV and movies.

Transgender actors are finally starting to get some of the screen time and recognition they deserve after decades fighting for the opportunity to tell their stories on TV and in movies. In 2014, Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in an acting category. Seven years later, Pose star Mj Rodriguez landed the first lead acting nomination for a trans performer. On the film side, Tangerine‘s Mya Taylor made history as the first trans actress to win a major film award in 2016 with her Independent Spirit Award’s Best Supporting Female victory, years after Gun Hill Road‘s Harmony Santana got the first Spirit Award nod for a trans actor. Although several cisgender stars have been nominated or won Oscars for playing trans characters, no openly transgender actor has scored a nomination for their work. (Elliot Page came out more than a decade after scoring a nod for Juno.)

Read on as we celebrate some of the best performances by transgender entertainers on the big and small screen, in no particular order, below.


Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor made a huge splash at Sundance and with audiences in 2015 as Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra in the Christmas Eve-set comedic drama Tangerine

Saturday Church

Before starring together in game-changing series Pose, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez and Indya Moore both appeared in Damon Cardasis’ debut film Saturday Church about a teenager who finds community and freedom at a local church’s program for LGBTQ youth.

A Fantastic Woman

Daniela Vega’s work as Marina Vidal in A Fantastic Woman took her all the way to the Oscars where the film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. 


For Hunter Schafer, Euphoria has served as a breakout project both in front of and behind the camera after she co-wrote a special episode after the show’s groundbreaking first season. 

Gossip Girl

Equal parts ruthless and vulnerable, Zión Moreno was a standout on the Gossip Girl reboot as Luna de la Cruz. Particularly in the second season, which ends with Luna becoming a model finding global success. 

The Umbrella Academy

Orange Is the New Black

Laverne Cox’s groundbreaking role on Orange Is the New Black as Sophia Burset not only won over audiences, but made Cox the first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in an acting category.

Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy fans will remember Alex Blue Davis’ intern Casey Parker for how he treated his patients, bonding with Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) about being in the military and that time when he shared his truth with Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) after saving the hospital from a hack. 


Nomi Marks (Jamie Clayton) was a brilliant hacker with a powerful life story on Sense8 and her passionate relationship with Amanita Caplan (Freema Agyeman) will stay with anyone who watched the Netflix series.

The Fosters

Tom Phelan joined The Fosters as a young transgender man in the midst of his transition who befriends Callie (Maia Mitchell) in a group home during season one. Fans were ecstatic too see the actor return during the show’s LGBTQ prom two seasons later.

Saved by the Bell


9-1-1: Lone Star

Y: The Last Man

Elliot Fletcher gave a great performance as Sam Jordan on Y: The Last Man, modernizing the beloved comic book series the show was based on. 

The L Word: Generation Q

The L Word: Generation Q‘s Micah Lee played by Leo Sheng was a great friend and therapist that was wonderful to watch.

Good Girls

During the early days of filming Good Girls, Isaiah Stannard came out as transgender and it was perfectly incorporated into the show where he played the child of Mae Whitman’s Annie Marks.

Star Trek: Discovery

Ian Alexander took representation into a whole new galaxy as the Star Trek canon’s first transgender character played by a trans actor. Plus, we love watching Gray and Adira together!

The Politician

Theo Germaine was a breakout star of Ryan Murphy’s The Polician as high-school-student-turned-political-campaign-adviser James Sullivan.

Sort Of

What creator-star Bilal Baig does as Sort Of lead Sabi Mehboob is just as impressive as the show they created.

Tales of The City

Jen Richards was a standout, bringing the historic Compton’s Cafeteria Riots of 1966 to Tales of the City as a younger Anna Madrigal, the character originated by Olympia Dukakis.

Gun Hill Road

Harmony Santana’s role in Gun Hill Road made history, but her performance brought an emotional family dynamic to the big screen and provided a window into the transgender experience at a time where trans actors were often not in trans roles.

Anything’s Possible

Eva Reign is magic as Kelsa in Billy Porter’s directorial debut Anything’s Possible.

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