Because of the work of many transgender activists and the visibility of important transgender figures in the media, increased by Caitlyn Jenner’s very publicized transition, transgender visibility in America is at an all-time high. However, trans people continue to be erased from history all over the world. To combat the historic erasure of trans people and trans identity, here are nine important transgender figures throughout history that you should know.
***Words that are italicized in the biographies are included in a glossary at the end of the post***
Elagabalus became emperor of Rome in 218 AD when they were just 14 years old. While there is no definite information about their gender identity or sexuality, there are many clues that suggest that Elagabalus was not cisgender and heterosexual. They were married five different times, to both men and women, although their marriages never lasted for long. They were known for having affairs with young boys and masquerading as a sex worker then purposely setting themselves up to be caught and beaten by a male guard. They often appeared in court wearing makeup and women’s clothing. Elagabalus also reportedly offered a large sum of money to any doctor who could surgically equip them with female genitalia. Read more
On Sunday, February 12th, the Grammys provided many Americans with a short break from the crushing reality of a Trump presidency. However, one star decided to use her platform to bring attention to an issue that was being overlooked by many anti-Trump movements. While announcing the performance of Lady GaGa and Metallica, Laverne Cox forgot to say the name of the band, but the name she said instead was just as important. During her very brief speech on the Grammy stage, Cox, a trans actress and activist, asked the audience to “please Google Gavin Grimm,” and they listened. The day after the Grammys aired, Google searches for “Gavin Grimm” literally went from 0 to 100. February 13th was the peak of interest in the subject on Google Trends. So, who is Gavin Grimm?
Gavin is a 17-year-old high school senior from Gloucester, Virginia. In 2014, Gavin decided to use the boys’ bathroom at school, because he felt the sign on the door matched his gender identity. Gavin’s mother had contacted school administrators at the beginning of his sophomore year to notify them of his gender identity, and Gavin received permission from school administrators to use the bathroom of his choice. For weeks, Gavin was able to peacefully use the boys’ bathroom without question. Meanwhile, Gavin’s decision to go to the bathroom sparked a massive local debate in Gloucester County, where 66.8 percent of voters voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 63.1 percent of voters voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Who is Gail Segal?
Gail Segal is an American poet and filmmaker, and a film professor at NYU Tisch.
Where is she from?
Segal grew up in the Deep South, and after earning her B.A. in Politics and her M.F.A. in Film, she moved to New York City to pursue filmmaking.
What are some of her recent projects?
In 2015, she published Dramatic Effects: with a movie camera, a book of essays about film.
In 2014, she released Filigrane, a narrative short about three French siblings exploring the United Arab Emirates in hopes of connecting to their late father who was a researcher in the area.
In 2013, she released Meanwhile, in Turkey; a documentary short about the agency of Turkish women in a time of political and social unease, and had her work published in Paradigm, a poetry anthology by Italian poet and translator Alfredo de Palchi. Read more