Trans Visibility on Broadway and Beyond

In 2022, Angelica Ross took on the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago, making her the first openly trans woman to play a lead role on Broadway.

Earlier that same year, L Morgan Lee became the first openly trans woman to be nominated for a Tony® (Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical) for her role in A Strange Loop.

March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility, so it’s heartening to see trans performers being recognized as entertainers and as groundbreakers.

Peppermint gained fame on RuPaul’s Drag Race, on which she was the first out trans woman competitor. Moving from television to the theater, Peppermint became the first Black trans woman to originate a principal role in an original Broadway cast when, in 2018, she played the oracle Pythio in Head Over Heels.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention this instantly iconic moment from Peppermint while guesting on The Pit Stop, a RuPaul’s Drag Race recap web series.

Issues cited by trans and nonbinary professionals often include misgendering (identifying a trans person by their gender at birth) or deadnaming (using a trans person’s pre-transition name).

It may seem like a harmless mistake to someone with little knowledge of trans individuals. For a transgender person, it’s a negation of their transition to their true self.

The arts, theater in particular, have traditionally welcomed nonconformists of all types. Progress has been, and ideally will continue to be made toward inclusion and acceptance of nonbinary actors (and nonbinary crew members, directors, playwrights, etc.).

Recent conversation has turned to fazing out gendered categories at major awards shows like the Oscars and the Tony Awards to be more gender inclusive.

The impact of inclusion can be felt in the film and television industries as well.

Laverne Cox and MJ Rodriguez are two transgender actresses that already have made their marks.

Cox is a prominent actress and the first openly transgender person nominated for an Emmy® — for her role as Sophia Burset on Orange is the New Black — is a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Cox just completed her second year as host and commentator on “Live from E!,” the popular Oscar arrival and  fashion critique, this year from the champagne carpet. 

Cox produced and appeared in the 2020 documentary Disclosure about the history of transgender representation in cinema. The documentary is available to watch on Netflix.

Rodriguez, too, has garnered an Emmy nomination, the first in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for work done on Pose. She told Shape magazine that it is very important to keep raising her voice.

“There’s a lot of prejudice, discord, and separation around the world when it comes to trans women, let alone the LGBTQIA community. With my artistry, I want people to see that what we need to focus on is the human experience and that we are all one. We have more in common than we realize.”

Pose highlights the ballroom community in New York City during the 1980s and features the largest cast of transgender actors in television history.

And then there is the euphoria of Elliot Page, who was declared by Esquire magazine as being “the most famous trans man on the planet.”

Assigned female at birth, garnering accolades for television and film work, notably an Academy Award® nomination for Juno, Page announced his transition in December 2020. The star of Netflix’s Umbrella Academy said it made him the target of “indescribable hate” but also brought him “unimaginable joy.”

Page’s transition was included in The Umbrella Academy‘s most recent season when his character also transitioned.

He’s also engaged in the push for equality. Page recently told Vanity Fair, “I’m texting and communicating with my friends that are trans. I think it’s about supporting one another, loving one another, loving yourself with all your might, shutting out the noise that is trying to make you feel bad, that is trying to silence you. …

“Ideally, there’s good that I can do … little day-to-day things to bigger things. And also to be present and use my platform and do everything I can.  … How to make it sustainable is obviously something I’m navigating myself, and I think friends are as well. It’s such a simple thing to say, of course, but I think it really is about loving yourself, holding onto your joy. We’ll just keep doing what we can to hopefully overcome the horrors that the community are facing right now.”

For more information on how to be an ally to the transgender community, click the image above to access resources from The Trevor Project.

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