March 31 2015 5:00 AM ET
The Trans 100 — an annual list of 100 trans Americans accomplished in the fields of advocacy and art — is all about positive visibility. So what better project to highlight today, on the International Transgender Day of Visibility?
The announcement of the third list on Sunday in Chicago was, as usual, a chance for trans communities to celebrate their "possibility" models, foot soldiers, and unsung heroes. It was a chance to remind the world that trans people are far more than limiting stereotypes or punchlines — a message that seems to just recently be reaching mainstream media, at least if TV roles and documentaries are a valid indicator.
But even as trans people continue to make positive strides in media, it's clear that work remains to combat the effects of society's far-reaching transphobia. This reality has been made strikingly clear within the first several months of 2015, which saw seven trans women and one gender-nonconforming man murdered. Reflecting an ongoing homicide epidemic, this group is predominantly women of color.
"There’s much we should be applauding, yet as we applaud, we must also be aware of those women existing outside of the media’s narrow lens, the women organizing, the women on the streets hustling, the women rejected from shelters and improperly placed in men’s detention and prison facilities, the women volunteering their limited resources to support communities of trans folk who’ve been overwhelming neglected by movements. The names of our sisters shouldn’t only make headlines when we walk a red carpet or lay in a casket."
In that spirit, below are highlighted the headline-worthy accomplishments of the 2015 Trans 100's women of color and transfeminine people, working as organizers, activists, health care advocates, entertainers, artists, and so much more.
Daniella Carter is a young Phoenix. She has risen out of the ashes and continues to spread light. Miss Carter is an advocate for LGBT youth and has given speeches at local, national, and internaional events, including panel discussions with political leaders and dignitaries. She continues to motivate youth to achieve their goals and develop tools to overcome their adversities. Daniella recently initiated a project to bring visibility to trans youth issues and has collaborated with Miss Universe and others to share their experiences in overcoming homelessness. She is working with her mentor Laverne Cox and was featured in the MTV& Logo TV documentary Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word. In addition, Carter has worked with various celebrities, from Cyndi Lauper to 50 Cent, to raise awareness of LGBTQIA youth homelessness. Her message transcends boundaries of race, nationality and gender, focusing on the intersection of identities.
Joanna Cifredo is a writer and the founder of FireBreathingTGirl.com, the Brand Ambassador to the DC Rape Crisis Center and a fierce advocate for trans issues. Joanna began her career in community service as a youth health educator in Central Florida. Eventually she transitioned to direct services working for The Health Department where she provided case management services to those living with HIV/AIDS. After relocating to D.C., she continued her service to the community, lending her time to Empoderate, a local latin@ LGBTQ community center and providing voice to under-served populations. Joanna serves on the Board of Directors to Whitman Walker Health and is the recipient of the 2015 Visionary Voice Award by National Sexual Violence Resource Center for her work on Trans-Inclusive Healthcare. Joanna, in conjunction with DCRCC, is launching a city-wide conversation called "SIS to Cis," a conversation between cis and transgender people of color.
Ashley Diamond is a singer and entertainer from Rome, Georgia, who unwittingly became a transgender rights activist following her incarceration in Georgia. After corrections officials terminated her hormone therapy and ignored her pleas for safe housing, Ashley commenced a lawsuit challenging Georgia's practice of denying transgender inmates gender-related care and turning a blind eye to their sexual victimization. Ashley also made a series of videos, Memoirs of a Chain Gang Sissy, amplifying the voices of LGBTQI inmates and shining a light on the abuse they experience on a daily basis. Although Ashley has been harassed, mistreated, and thrown into solitary confinement for her advocacy, she continues to strive at any cost, drawing courage from LGBTQI activists that have come before her, and the words of Dr. King, that to "accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system."
Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi, "The Ancient Jazz Priestess of Mother Africa," is an African, Cuban, and Native American performance artist, author (Yemaya's Daughters), teacher, blogger (Lady Dane Speaks, Queen Goddesses), a regular contributor to Queer of Gender, cohost of the Inside Out Radio Show, advocate, a member of the TWOCC Leadership Team (Trans Women of Color Collective), a volunteer at Casa Ruby, life coach, and a founding member of Force/Collision. She began producing her own cabarets at the age of seventeen. At LaMama in New York in 2012 she originated the role of Madame Cordelia McClain in Erik Ehn's Shape. With Yemaya's Daughters (2013), she became the first TWOC to publish a work of fiction in D.C. In 2013 (D.C.) and 2015 (NYC) she produced a reading of her musical Roaring (book and lyrics) which is about a TWOC in the 20s. She is represented by awQward Talent Agency.
Goddess Queen sister Katrina Goodlett is a Black Transgender Woman of Color who is also the EP/Host of The Kitty Bella Show on Blog Talk Radio. Katrina, a content creator, loves asking tough questions, building brands, and creating campaigns. Katrina created the empowerment campaign #tgirlsrock in 2013 to raise the visibility and to empower Trans folk through clothing. Katrina serves on the Leadership of The TWOCC [Trans Women of Color Collective]. Katrina strongly believes in sisterhood and collective economics. Katrina just recently joined the groundbreaking Queer/Trans persons of color Talent Agency awQward. Katrina was born and raised in NYC, has a degree in English, and background in broadcast journalism. Katrina has worked in government service for over a decade and is building her brand of empowerment one step at a time. Katrina is currently working on a stage routine which will include satiricial comedy that finds irony and nuance in the everday issues Trans folk face.
Brooke Cerda Guzmán is a women's rights activist with a focus on women of Transgender experience. Brooke came to American in 1989, escaping heavy bullying and her extremely Catholic family. But it wasn't until 2009 that Lorena Borjas invited her to her support group that Brooke was able to find the information and support to get the courage to start her feminization process and present to the world as herself. At the same time, she realized how vulnerable her community, and Transgender women of color, truly are. She decided to dedicate her life to educate and bring awareness to the world as well as advocate for her own community. Since then she has gained great visibility and was awarded with "The Legacy of Pride Award" by Harlem Pride and has co-founded, with other community leaders, the Trans Women of Color Collective. In 2013 she finished her two year (volunteeer) internship at The Gender Identity Project. On April 30, 2014 the Anti-Violence Project honored her.
Monica James-Lauren is a 40-something Black transgender woman from the South Side of Chicago whose strong activist voice has been heard around the world. She has survived years of police targeting, including being confined in the maximum security section of Cook County Jail more than 100 times. In 2007, with legal and community support, she fought trumped up charges following a brutal assault by police. In 2014, she traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to testify before the UN to the severe abuses inflicted by cops and courts on trans women of color. She is currently a collective member at the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois and a staff member at Howard Brown Health Center.
What do you get when you mix fierce make-up, stunning style, and a passion for social justice? You get Ms. Samantha Jo Dato! After relocating from Atlantic City, NJ to Philadelphia, PA in 2011, Samantha Jo has quickly become a force to be reckoned with as a dedicated and passionate advocate and activist for trans* issues. A self-determined, affectionate, and loving person with a sassy, fireball personality, Samantha has worked tirelessly in a number of efforts forwarding the Trans* Movement. In 2012 she served as a committee member for the Philadelphia Trans* March, played an integral role in the launch of Mazzoni Center's Trans Wellness Project, and developed and presented workshops at conferences, such as The National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change and The Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. While living a transparent life as a transwoman, she has become a role model, leader, big sister, and support system to many.
Monica Jones is an activist for trans rights and sex worker rights. She is a student at Arizona State University School of Social Work and she travels to educate people on the issues that affect both trans women and sex workers. She has travelled to Geneva, Switzerland to speak about trans and sex worker issues.
NIC Kay is a transdisciplinary artist whose work straddles performance, video, installation, collage, and printmaking. NIC's current projects explore movement as a place of reclamation of the body, history, and identity. Born and reaised in the Bronx, New York, NIC graduated from Professional Performing Artist School in 2007 and was a Hemispheric Institute EMERGENYC Fellow in 2009. NIC was a youth member and peer educator at The Hetrick Martin Institute home of the Harvey Milk School for 8 years. Now residing in Chicago, they are a founding member of 3rd Language queer arts collective. They gave the 2013 Keynote Speech at The Trans, Gender Nonconforming, Intersex Freedom Picnic and Rally in Chicago, and they have taught for About Face Theatre, Women Made Gallery, Free Street Theater, and Broadway Youth Center. In 2014, they were awarded the Chances Dances - Marc Aguhar Memorial Grant.
Mira Krishnan in a neuropsychologist and healthcare leader. At Hope Network, a leading social service agency, she directs the Center for Autism, West Michigan's leading autism evaluation and treatment program. She is active on the local, state, and national levels, including a board advisory role with the American Association of Children's Residential Centers and co-chairing the American Psychological Associations Division 44 Committee for Transgender People and Gender Diversity. Mira has presented at the First Event and Southern Comfort Conferences on workplace transition / coming out success, and she is also an active blogger on LGBTQIA+ and feminist issues. She lives in Grand Rapids, Mich., and is in a committed relationship with a trans man, Teri Jourdan. She came ot publicly as trans in July 2014.
Aryah Lester is the current chair for the state of Florida Health Department's Transgender Work Group, and member of Trans* Active Florida, an advisory board of Equality Florida. She also founded the organization Trans-Miami, Miami-Dade's first ransgender organization, as well as continued the social news network for her National Alliance of Transgender Advocates and Leaders (NATAL). Aryah Lester currently assists the Switchboard of Miami as a nationally certified suicide crisis hotline counselor, and speaks nationally towards transgender equality. In addition, Aryah Lester has, in collaboration with Unity Coalition as a board member, instituted a monthly support group for ransgnder individuals in Brickell, and offers workshops throughout the year, as well as sitting as a member of the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors transgender group.
Jennifer Louise Lopez is, according to her biography on Everything Trans NYC, an activist, advocate, supporter, public speaker, investigative journalist, and photographer who volunteers at many organizations to support the trans community. She has received the Community Hero Award from the New York City Antiviolence Project and HBO for her work on the Islan Nettles murder case, is the appointed "Chair Woman of the Transgender Services committee for the Bronx LGBT Center," and is executive director of the transgender Experience, an NYC Pride organization.
For nearly a decade, Kristen Parker Lovell has worked vigorously to carry on Sylvia Rivera's legacy to support transient young people. A survivor of the streets who was mentored by Sylvia herself, for over eight years Kristen has been a symbol of strength and resilience in her work at Sylvia's Place/MCCNY Charities Inc., NYC's only emergency queer youth shelter. She's currently the Program Coordinator for HIV Testing and Counseling and has been helping relaunch STARR, the radical trans activist group started by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson in 1972. A fierce advocate for trans women, Kristen is also the founder of an empowerment group, Trans in Action, which in 2011 produced a documentary about trans representation in the media. Kristen has a passion for history and ensures that the young people of today know it as well. She is also a talented artist and performer.
Tommy Luckett, born and raise in Helena, Arkansas, is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas. Luckett advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS and is well aware of the disparities in healthcare coverage transgender peopel face at an alarming rate and is working to remedy it. She atended the 53rd annual Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS meeting and participated in a five-speaker panel discussing Medicaid expansion and the private option. Since then, Luckett became the Arkansas State Coordinator for AIDSWatch 2014 in Washington, D.C. Luckett sits on the board of the Arkansas Transgender Equality Colaition and is a Quality of Healthcare Advisor for the Arkansas Department of Health. Luckett's most recent accomplishment is to be on the board of the U.S. PLHIV Cacus Steering Committee. Luckett continues to promote education and HIV awareness with a global influence.
Joselyn Mendoza is an undocumented transgender woman from Queens, New York who has organized and led the largest immigrant youth-led movement to fight for trans liberation. She began organizing after feeling like a victim of employment discrimination due to her gender identity. Yet, Joselyn has always been a person that never gives up. She started organizing with Make the Road New York, a local organization fromm Queens, N.Y. to push for GENDA legislation that would included gender identity and expression in employment protections. She has then become a National Leader for the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project, a program of United We Dream, where she lead the recent #WeCantWait campaign that resulted in President Obama acting to protect nearly 5 million undocumented immigrant families. She has now begun working directly across the nation to organize and advocate for all Transgender and LGBQ immigrants to protect them from the inhumane detention and deportation machine.
Toni Newman is the author of the memoir I Rise—The Transformation of Toni Newman. The memoir I Rise was nominated in 2012 in 2 categories for the Lambda Literary Awards. I Rise is being sold in 22 countires and 15 different languages. British director Keight Holland and writer/producer Alton Demore have adapted the memoir into the feature film Heart of a Woman. The Advocate, the Huffington Post, and Ebony magazine have featured Toni Newman and I Rise. Toni is the Community Editor for Proud to Be Out digital magazine and a blogger for [Huffington Post's Gay Voices], which features the leaders of transgender advocacy groups in the United States. Her day-to-day position is the Development and Administration Coordiator for the largest healthcare wellness centers in South Los Angeles. She is a graduate of Wake Forest University with a B.A. degree and currently a law school student pursuing a JD degree with a desire to fight for transgender minorities.
Reyna Ortiz is a proud Trans Latina who has been openly Trans for over 20 years. "Living my life as a Trans woman growing up in the inner city, you come to realize the lack of resources and understand the needs in your community. My passion is to inform all Trans women about the resources that are available. Connecting with 'The Girls' on a deeper personal level, understanding the struggles that Trans women go through, and finding ways to make our lives and Transition easier. Trans people are here, have been here, and will always be here."
Alexis Paige is a bisexual mixed race Korean woman. She assisted in the planning of Portland's first official Trans Pride March, planning the Meaningful Care Conference (a national LGBTQ medical conference), and, in the promotion of and education about Oregan state's Medicaid program, ending exclusions of transiton-related transgender healthcare. Currently she works at the Cascade AIDS Project assisting people in applying for healthcare and is a member of the Trans inclusion committee at the Cascade AIDS Project. She also volunteers as a HIV tester and counselor at monthly trans community nights at Pivot in Portland and as an operator for the Trans Lifeline.
Geena Rocero's life in the public eye began in Manila, Philippines, where she joined the Trans Women Beauty Pageant at the age of fifteen. She quickly became one of the most prominent figures in the Trans Beauty Pageant world. Geena emigrated to San Francisco in 2001, and moved to New York City in 2005 in order to pursue her modeling career. She soon realized her bigger purpose in life was to share her journey and work towards justice and beauty in the transgender community. After she "came out" to the entire world in her viral 2014 TED Talk, she founded Gender Proud, a non-profit dedicated to elevating transgender visibility. Gender Proud is currently advocating for more progressive gender marker policy around the world. Geena currently tours the country as a speaker, focusing on the uregent need for transgender equality.
Alok Vaid-Menon is a trans South Asian writer, performance artist, and community organizer based in New York City. For the past six years they have organized in solidarity with racial, economic, and gender justice movement across the world. Alok currently serves on staff of the Audre Lorde Project, a community organizing center for and by queer and trans people of oclor. They also are on tour with DarkMatter, an activist poetry collaboration.
Victoria Villalba is a transwoman from Hermosillo, Mexico raised in Phoenix, Arizona since the age of 3. In 2010, after her father's deportation, she returned to Mexico with her mother, determined to keep their family together. As she readjusted to life in Hermosillo, Victoria began to realize that she would not be able to live an authentic life in Mexico. Determined, she presented herself at the U.S. border to request asylum. She was detained and held in all-male ICE detention for 3 1/2 months, during which time she organized other trans and queer migrants in a hunger strike to protest the abysmal conditions in detention. Since her release, she has worked tirelessly towards the liberation of all trans and queer migrants from the detention and deportation system. She is the founder of Transcend Arizona, an organization working to dismantle the systems that oppress queer communities.
LaSaia Wade is a 27-year-old Trans woman of color who graduated from middle Tennessee State University with a BBA bachelor's in business administration. She has worked for many different organizations such as the TPOCC [Trans People of Color Coalition] and many more. She is now Executive Director of the TNTJ Tennessee Trans Journey Project where she deals with economic justice, creates jobs, and uses funding to open doors for all Trans folk in the state of Tennessee.
Dawn Josephine Wilson has been working for transgender civil rights in business, education, and TBLG communities for 20 years. After working on Capitol Hill, and following her transition, Dawn brought her skills to the first Transgender Lobby Days event in 1995, helping train transgender people on how to effectively lobby Congress. In 1998, Dawn joined the Louisville Fairness Campaign, working to educate the GLB community as well as public office holders, on transgender issues. In 2000, Dawn was awarded the IFGE Trinity Award. IN 2004, Dawn joined the board of the Council for Fairness and Individual Rights (C-FAIR), the Fairness Campaign's PAC, and remains a member of the C-FAIR board today. Dawn currently serves as a Commissioner on the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission, as the Commission's Education Chair, and as a member and trustee of Edenside Christian Church in Louisville, K.Y.
Hina Wong-Kalu is a highly respected teacher, cultural practitioner, and community leader who has brought national attention to the Native Hawaiian embrace of mahu — those who embody both male and female spirit. She was a founder of the Kulia Na Mamo transgender health project, cultural director of a Hawaiian public charter school, and candidate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, one of the first transgender candidates for statewide political office in the United States. The award-winning PBS documentary Kumu Hina traces Hina's evolution from a timid high school boy to a married woman and kumu (teacher) who uses traditional culture to empower a young girl to lead the school's all-male hula troupe. A children's version of the film is being used to raise awareness of gender diversity in schools across the country, and to focus attention on the true mean ing of aloha — love, honor, and respect for all.
Kylie Wu is the creator of Trans Girl Next Door, a weekly autobiographical web comic series about her life as a transgender woman and a professional napper. Since she day she was born, Kylie always knew she was a watermelon enthusiast, but she didn't realize she was a lady until the year Justin Bieber turned 19. Having personally visited the public restrooms in China, Mexico, Washington, D.C., Chicago... she decided Los Angeles has the best ones, and that's why she is currently residing there. Kylie enjoys surfing in the afternoon and chopping wood at night in her bikini (usually in a stranger's backyard).
As a Community Organizer at the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), Lala Zannell is the face of AVP's public community organizing work, doing advocacy, outreach, and networking on behalf of LGBTQ New Yorkers who have experienced violence. LaLa also plays a key role in AVP's Rapid Incident Response team, which responds whenever incidents of hate violence, sexual violence, or intimate partner violence impacting LGBTQ and HIV-affected New Yorkers become public. LaLa is a gifted public speaker and speechwriter who speaks out on issues related to anti-LGBTQ violence, and especially the disproportionate violence that transgender women of color face. Additionally, LaLa is a mentor for the Trans Mentorship Program at the Ali Forney Center, coalition memer of Communities United for Police Reform and a member of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) Movement Building Committee. Lala believes, "We must all be accountable to each other."