Transitioning from one gender to another used to be impossible for many that felt they were born in the wrong body. It was something done carefully and in private, if they even knew it was an option at all. As our culture shifts and our minds open, we’re encountering more and more trans people of note who have a lot to add to the conversation. Dialogue is important, but the transformations are amazing, too! Learn something new about your favorite trans stars as you click through our before and after photos of nine remarkable transgender celebrities.
1. Caitlyn Jenner – BEFORE
(Image Source: huffingtonpost.com)
If you’re not familiar with Caitlyn, you certainly know Bruce. Bruce Jenner was a gold medal winning Olympian and all-around athlete who was born in Mount Kisco, New York in 1949. Over the course of 40 years of megastardom, she presented herself as a man. In 1991, Bruce married a divorcee named Kris Kardashian and had two children with her, Kendall and Kylie. They, along with Kris’ children Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, and Rob, made their reality television debut in 2007, and things began moving fast.
2. Caitlyn Jenner – AFTER
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Rumors of Jenner’s actual gender identity go back a long time, but her reputation as a family man and athlete always overrode the gossip. Audiences watched as Bruce’s appearance changed during episodes of Keeping Up with The Kardashians, and the tabloids had a field day. Fans of the show also noted that Bruce seemed reserved, perhaps even sullen, and many chalked it up to marital problems. But during an interview with Diane Sawyer, Jenner finally came forward with the decision to transition to female. Caitlyn has since become the most well-known trans woman alive, explaining, “I’m saying goodbye to people’s perception of me and who I am. But I’m not saying goodbye to me. This has always been me.”
3. Chaz Bono – BEFORE
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Chaz is the only child of retro power couple Sonny Bono and Cher. He was born Chastity Bono in Los Angeles 47 years ago. Bono spent a lot of time in the limelight as a child due to his parents’ showbiz careers, but it wasn’t always a good thing. As he struggled with his identity, tabloids were there to capture it all. The intrusion and speculation about his private life was overwhelming.
4. Chaz Bono – AFTER
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Today, Chaz is happier than ever, and ready to share his journey. After coming out as a lesbian in 1995, he began making the transition from female to male in 2008. He even consented to document the experience in the film Becoming Chaz. He has since been a spokesperson for very important LBGTQ causes like the Human Rights Campaign and was the Entertainment Media Director for GLAAD. He’s also appeared on Dancing with The Stars and worked as a writer for The Advocate.
5. Candis Cayne – BEFORE
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Choreographer and actress Candis Cayne was born Brendan McDaniel in Maui, Hawaii. After school, the budding performer traveled to the mainland to study dance in Los Angeles. From there, Cayne relocated to New York to join a burgeoning club scene. She began performing in drag shows and working as a choreographer. She also learned for the first time what being transgender meant, and began to transition into womanhood in 1996.
6. Candis Cayne – AFTER
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Today, Candis exudes classic Hollywood beauty. The performer has been a featured choreographer on RuPauls’ Drag Race, and became the first transgender woman featured in a regular role as a trans person on ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money. Even with her status as a trailblazer, Cayne has said, “I’m not trying to be a spokesperson for the transgender community. I just want to be looked at as a living, breathing, happy human being.” Candis made headlines by joining Caitlyn Jenner on her reality show, I Am Cait. She has also worked as a dance teacher for musical acts like TLC and Kelis.
7. Carmen Carrera – BEFORE
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Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race are very familiar with this flawless face. Carmen Carrera, born Christopher Roman in New Jersey, was a fan favorite on season three of the show. Known for her barely-there, body-baring costumes, Carrera made her way to the top six after being brought back to the show following elimination. Viewers were also familiar with Christopher, Carmen’s identity out of drag. This would soon change.
8. Carmen Carrera – AFTER
(Image Source: galoremag.com)
After the show, Carmen made the decision to transition from female impersonator to transgender woman. In 2012, she made an appearance on the ABC show, What Would You Do?, revealing that she wasn’t a just drag artist anymore, but a trans woman. Carrera has gone on to become an accomplished model, landing a contract with Elite Models and walking in New York Fashion Week. She has also been very outspoken about the way people refer to transgender individuals, prompting a change in commonly used lingo on the very show from which she got her start, Drag Race. She is married to her longtime partner and is an activist for AIDS awareness.
9. Laverne Cox – BEFORE
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Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox was born in Mobile, Alabama. While she doesn’t like to reveal her first name at birth, she is open about the fact that she was born a male. She even has an identical twin brother named Reginald. Growing up was difficult for young Laverne, who confessed that she attempted suicide in the sixth grade. But she persevered, and to say things have changed for the better would be a huge understatement.
10. Laverne Cox – AFTER
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Today, Laverne is an Emmy-nominated actress and advocate who identifies as a woman. That’s a massive accomplishment for someone who grew up – and nearly gave up – horribly bullied and misunderstood. Cox is hopeful today, stating, “Some folks, they just don’t understand. And they need to get to know us as human beings. Others are just going to be opposed to us forever. But I do believe in the humanity of people and in people’s capacity to love and to change.”
11. Alexis Arquette – BEFORE
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Alexis was born Robert Arquette in Los Angeles in 1969. She was the sibling of actors David, Patricia, Rosanna, and Richmond Arquette. She began acting in 1982. Early on, Alexis was known and appreciated for her gender-bending style. She even changed her name to Alexis long before making a transition in 2004.
12. Alexis Arquette – AFTER
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Arquette shared her trans journey in the 2007 documentary Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother. That, along with a career including over 40 film roles, have made Alexis a pioneer and legend. “I’m an agitator, I’m opinionated, I’m a libertine and a leader,” she once said. Alexis passed away on September 11th, 2016. She was 47.
13. Janet Mock – BEFORE
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Janet was born Robert in Honolulu, Hawaii. She knew very early in life that she was meant to be a woman. She began transitioning while still in high school, and completed transition during her first year of college. It was something she came to terms with early on. “Instead of proclaiming that I was not a plot device to be laughed at, I spent my younger years internalizing and fighting those stereotypes,” she wrote.
14. Janet Mock – AFTER
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Janet Mock, in part, became a celebrity while reporting on celebrities. She was a staff editor at People magazine for five years. In 2011, an article about her transition was published in Marie Claire magazine, and Mock’s journey into advocacy and activism began. In 2014, she published the groundbreaking bestseller, Redefining Realness: My Journey into Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More. She married her husband in 2015.
15. Lana Wachowski – BEFORE
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Lana was previously known as Larry Wachowski. Wachowski is part of the iconic filmmaking duo formerly known as The Wachowski Brothers. Lana dropped out of college and began writing for Marvel comics early on before branching out into writing and producing hit films like The Matrix. During rare public appearances, people noted that Lana – then Larry – looked rather effeminate, and rumors of her gender transition began to take hold. Wachowski elected to ignore the speculation, and many of her colleagues came to her defense.
16. Lana Wachowski – AFTER
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In 2012, Lana made her first official appearance as a woman. It was later learned that she had completed transitioning around 2009. She has since been much more candid about her gender identity experience. Wachowski admitted that her feelings of confusion had led her to contemplate suicide in the past. Of her recent decision to increase her visibility, Lana has stated that while she’s just shy and enjoys her privacy, she wants her story to be of value to those experiencing situations similar to hers.
17. Ian Harvie – BEFORE
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Comedian and actor Ian Harvie was born female in Portland, Maine in 1968. Ian came out as gay during his teen years, but didn’t begin identifying as a man until age 32. He became inspired to go into comedy watching shows like The Carol Burnett Show, Hee Haw, and Saturday Night Live. Harvie began performing stand-up acts for friends and family as early as age eight. There was much more to come!
18. Ian Harvie – AFTER
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Today, Ian stands out as one of the few visible, mainstream trans comics who draws material from their experience. He was noticed by comedian Margaret Cho and began touring with her in 2006, shortly after moving to Los Angeles. His audience grew exponentially after appearing in the first season of the hit show, Transparent. Like many others, the specifics of his gender identity are unique to him. “I was born female…I keep my ‘F’ on my driver’s license and birth certificate because for me, that’s a biological fact,” he says.
From an early age, Buck began to express signs of gender dysmorphia. Despite a troubled adolescence, he was able to pursue a career in modeling as an androgynous female. Nevertheless, he continued to struggle until he began hormone therapy as an adult. As Buck became increasingly comfortable with his body, he went on to become a trailblazer in the adult film industry. In recent years, he’s begun traveling the world as a motivational speaker and sex educator in hopes of starting conversations about LGBTQ acceptance and body positivity.
20.) Lili Elbe
IMAGE SOURCE (BEFORE): http://www.express.co.uk/
IMAGE SOURCE (AFTER): https://thewalrus.ca
Born Einar Wegener, Lili enjoyed a career as a European painter for many years. However, she found comfort in modeling women’s clothes for her wife and fellow artist Gerda Gottlieb. In the 1920’s, she began posing as Einar Wegener’s sister in public, and in 1930 she was one of the first recipients of a sex reassignment surgery. Though she died shortly afterwards due to her immune system rejecting her new uterus, her legacy lives on today. In 2015, she was portrayed by Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, based on David Ebershoff’s novel of the same name.
21.) Caitlyn Jenner
IMAGE SOURCE (BEFORE): http://www.si.com/
IMAGE SOURCE (AFTER): http://www.eonline.com/
Jenner first found fame as an Olympic decathlete and an iconic spokesperson for Wheaties. Later on, she married Kris Kardashian just a few years prior to the infamous O.J. Simpson murder trials. By association, he became a fixture in the prominent reality television show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. However, following the couple’s divorce in 2014, Cait took the media by storm when she came out in a televised interview with Diane Sawyer. Her transition was then chronicled in a documentary mini series titled I am Cait. Since opening up about her gender dysmorphia, she has become one of the most prominent transgender figures in history.
22.) Carmen Carrera
IMAGE SOURCE (BEFORE): https://www.pinterest.com
IMAGE SOURCE (AFTER): https://galoremag.com
Carrera first came into the public eye when she was cast on the third season of the wildly popular reality series RuPaul’s Drag Race. Following her success on television, she revealed that she identified as a transgender woman, and soon after her elimination from Drag Race, she began transitioning. Since then, she has branched into modeling and has continued to make television appearances, including a stint on VH1’s Couple’s Therapy. Out of the camera’s view, she has made great strides as an advocate for the transgender community. In addition, she has given back to the LGBTQ community by participated in funding campaigns for AIDs awareness.
Though she’s seldom discussed by Western press. Jin Xing is one of the most well known women in China. Praised as an incredibly intelligent child, Jin joined the People’s Liberation Army as a child and eventually ranked as a colonel. During military career, she received extensive training in dance and subsequently went on to become a gifted ballerina and forward thinking choreographer. In an unprecedented move, the Chinese government allowed Jin Xing to undergo sex reassignment surgery in 1996 – she is among a handful of trans women to be officially recognized as a female. Today, she is the host of one of the most popular variety shows in the country, with an estimated viewership of 100 million.
Chaz began life in the spotlight as the only child of the iconic pop duo Sonny & Cher. At an early age, he became aware of his sexual attraction to women, and for many years he identified as a lesbian. Almost immediately, Cher became one of the most outspoken allies of the LGBTQ community. Nevertheless, Chaz did not begin the transition to become a man until he was nearly 40 years old. Since, he has become one of the most well known transgender men in America, due in part to his vocal activism for organizations such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign.
Born into a family of artists, Alexis’ creative side was nurtured from an early age. Her acting career began at age 12, and as early as 1986 Alexis began performing under the name Alexis. For many years, she performed in both male and female roles, until she formally underwent sex reassignment story. Sadly, Alexis succumbed to a 29 year battle with HIV in 2016.
As a Czechoslovakian track star, Koubek was praised for setting several world records. However, when he found himself in the center of the public’s eye, newspapers began commenting on the athlete’s unusually masculine tendencies. After participating in the Women’s World Games in 1934, Koubek retired from sports at the early age of 22. In 1936, Koubek pursued gender reassignment surgery and ultimately changed his name. After World War II, he settled down in Prague and lived out his like alongside his wife.
Stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard has always been open about his identity. Since getting into show business in the mid 1990’s, he’s appeared in a wide variety television and films, ranging from an animated voice over in Cars 2 to a recurring appearance in the thriller television series Hannibal. For years, he’s been considered one Britain’s greatest comedians. Though he has not undergone hormone therapy or sexual reassignment, the queer artist has openly identified himself as transgender.
Originally, the Wachowskis found their way into the public eye when they directed the iconic dystopian sci-fi flick The Matrix in 1999. Cementing their position as two of the most prominent figures working in the genre, they went on to contribute to several highly acclaimed productions such as V for Vendetta, Cloud Atlas, and the Netflix original series Sense8. Lana first her spoke out about her intentions to transition around 2008, although she did not make her first appearance after coming out until 2012. In 2016, Lilly followed in her sister’s footsteps and also found the courage to come out to the public as a transgender woman. Though the two are notoriously reclusive, they hold the distinction of being the first major Hollywood directors to be a part of the trans community.
30.) Amanda Lepore
IMAGE SOURCE (BEFORE): http://listabuzz.com/
IMAGE SOURCE (AFTER): http://www.zimbio.com/
Ever since Amanda Lepore was a child growing up in New Jersey, she identified as a woman. In her early teens, she has already begun taking hormone supplements and beginning her transition into womanhood. By the 1990’s she gained a reputation in the New York City clubbing and nightlife scene, and she soon became the muse of critically acclaimed artist David LaChapelle. Eventually, she went on to delve into modeling, acting, and music, developing a well known brand and becoming a fixture in the LGBTQ community.
Isis King has always felt that she was born in the wrong body. After studying illustration and design, she moved to New York to transition in a new life and further discover her identity. For a time, she found herself living in a LGBTQ homeless shelter – but she quickly caught a break when she grabbed the attention of Tyra Banks and the producers of America’s Next Top Model. Although she ultimately did not win the competition, her acceptance as a woman on the reality television show was entirely unprecedented. She was invited back for the show’s seventeenth “All-Stars” cycle, and has since established a successful career as a model.
For years, Elliott Fletcher struggled with his identity. However, throughout his youth, he always found solace in theater and music. When he finally came out to his parents during his senior year of high school, he began to thrive. In 2016, he was cast in the MTV rom-com Faking It and quickly proved himself to be a breakout star. Though he’s only just begun his career as an actor, his performance was remarkable enough that he’s since been casted for parts in The Fosters and Shameless.