Award-winning filmmaker Lana Wachowski, who's best known for co-writing and -directing the "Matrix" trilogy with her brother, Andy Wachowski, was the first major Hollywood director to come out as transgender in July 2012.
The Chicago native recently released "Cloud Atlas" and received the Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award in October 2012, where she delivered a revealing and heartfelt speech.
The son of Cher and Sonny Bono, Chaz publicly revealed he was transitioning in 2009 and has since been one of the most visible members of the trans community.
In May he published his memoir Transition: The Story Of How I Became A Man, and was previously a contestant on "Dancing With The Stars. He was also named one of Out magazine's 100 LGBT people of the year.
Since coming out as transgender, former People.com editor Janet Mock has become a prominent voice and face for the trans community.
She's been named to The Grio's 100 most influential people and Sundance Channel's top 10 LGBT voices. In early November 2012, Mock was honored with the prestigious Sylvia Rivera Activist Award by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. She also recently released her memoir titled Redefining Realness.
In 1952, Christine Jorgensen became the first widely known person to undergo gender confirmation surgery. The late trans activist, who died at 62 in 1989, decided the intrigued media wouldn't dictate her image. Jorgensen openly spoke about her transition and once said, "I decided if they wanted to see me, they would have to pay for it."
Before her transition, Jorgensen served as a clerk in the Army and in 1967 she released a memoir titled Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Biography.
Silveira is the lead singer of the band The Cliks.
The Cliks made history as the first band with an openly trans male leader signed by a major record label, Tommy Boy Entertainment's imprint Silver Label.
In 2009 he made history again as the first trans man to be voted Canada's Sexiest Man by readers of Canadian music magazine Chart Attack.
The Brazilian supermodel was discovered by Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci when he hired her as his personal assistant. Soon after she became his muse and her modeling career began.
She has been featured in high-profile fashion magazines like "Vogue Paris," "Hercules," "Interview," "Love," and "Cover."
Richards is an ophthalmologist, author and former professional tennis player.
After transitioning in 1975, she was banned from playing in the U.S. Open by the United States Tennis Association (USTA) because only biological women were allowed to participate in the tournament. Richards fought the ban and a 1977 New York Supreme Court decision ruled in her favor.
She continued to play until 1981.
This fall a documentary about Richards's life, "Renée," was released.
King was the first (and, thus far, only) trans model to be featured on the reality fashion competition "America's Next Top Model." She was seen on both the 11th and 17th cycles of the show.
In 2008 Thomas Beatie became famous when he revealed that he was pregnant with his first child.
Soon after Beatie and his wife, Nancy, made headlines and he became known as "the pregnant man."
The couple now has three children, all carried by Thomas, and he recently revealed that he is considering undergoing a hysterectomy.
Dr. Marci Bowers is a pioneer in the field of gender confirmation surgery and is the first known trans woman to perform these types of procedures.
After practicing in Trinidad, Colo., which is known as the "sex change capital of the world" due to the high number of surgeries performed there, she moved her practice to San Mateo, California, in December 2010.
Cayne made history when she accepted a role on "Dirty Sexy Money" and became the first transgender actress to play a recurring transgender character in prime time.
She's also appeared on "Nip/Tuck," "RuPaul's Drag Race," and "Necessary Roughness."
In 2006 Iwamoto was elected to a position on Hawaii's state Board of Education and became (at the time) the highest-elected transgender official in the United States.
She ran for re-election in 2010 and won.
See a video of Iwamoto discussing her support of an anti-bullying bill in Hawaii by clicking here.
Kye Allums was the first Division I openly transgender athlete in NCAA sports history. Today, Kye is a transgender advocate and the founder of Project I Am Enough, a project dedicated to encouraging self-love and self-definition for everyone.
Jenna Talackova made headlines in April 2012 when she was booted from the Miss Universe Canada pageant.
Talackova fought back and ultimately was allowed back into the competition. She spoke with Barbara Walters and said, "I feel like the universe, the creator, just put me in this position as an advocate," she continues. "If it's helping anybody else by sharing my story and with my actions, then I feel great about it."
A veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising (some claim she threw the first heel), Rivera fought for the rights of all queer people, not just those who fit into more homonormative molds.
Described by Riki Wilchins as "the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement," Rivera founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, "a radical group that did everything from marching to setting up crash pads as an alternative to the streets," among other activist roles.
Today The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression regardless of income or race, and Sylvia's Place, a NYC emergency homeless shelter for LGBT youth, both exist to honor Rivera's life and work.
Tipton was a saxophone and piano player and bandleader popular during the 1940's and '50s.
He eventually settled down in Spokane, Washington, got married, and adopted three sons. It wasn't until after his death from a hemorrhaging ulcer that Tipton's gender at birth was revealed to his sons and the rest of the world.
Sanchez worked tirelessly in the LGBT community before he became the first trans person to hold a senior congressional staff position on Capitol Hill.
In December 2008 he began working for Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) tracking LGBT, healthcare, veterans and labor issues.
The transgender activist Laverne Cox came to our attention when she first appeared on VH1's "I Want to Work for Diddy," which made her the first African-American transgender woman to be on a mainstream reality TV series.
The show went on to win GLAAD's media award for outstanding reality program in 2009 where Cox accepted the honor and spoke about transgender visibility (VIDEO).
Since appearing on Diddy's show, Cox got her own VH1 reality series, "TRANSform Me," which got its own GLAAD media award nomination in 2011. She then exploded within the entertainment industry after becoming a breakout star in the Netflix original series "Orange Is The New Black."
The pioneer continues her advocacy in public engagements and frequently writes about trans issues for The Huffington Post.
The writer, playwright and performance artist is the author of several seminal tomes on gender theory including 1994's Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us. In 2006 she also wrote Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.
Her first memoir, A Queer And Pleasant Danger, was published in May 2012.
The world's first female-to-male porn star, Angel also works as an advocate, educator, lecturer and writer.
In 2007 Angel won the Adult Video News Transsexual Performer of the Year award and was written into Armistead Maupin's Michael Tolliver Lives, one of the novels in the Tales Of The City series.
He has spoken around country, including an appearance at Yale University in 2010.
Rasmussen became the first transgender mayor in the United States when he was elected to the office in Silverton, Oregon in November 2008.
He writes on his website:
"I just happen to be [transgender] -- something I didn't even know the word for until I discovered it on the Internet. I've been a crossdresser or transvestite my whole life, only 'coming out' recently and thereby discovering that life goes on very nicely."
In 1976 Lou G. Sullivan began applying for gender confirmation surgery, but was rejected because he identified as gay. At the time, "female-to-gay male transsexuality was not recognized by the medical/psychotherapeutic establishment as a legitimate form of gender dysphoria at that time."
After mounting a successful campaign to get homosexuality removed from a list of objections which served to keep interested candidates from undergoing surgery, Sullivan finally obtained gender confirmation surgery in 1986.
That same year he organized FTM, "the first peer-support group devoted entirely to female-to-male [transsexual and transvestite] individuals."
Chris Tina Bruce became the first transgender bodybuilding contestant to participate in a competition in San Diego in 2011.
Bruce doesn't necessarily identify as male or female, rather as someone who sits in the middle of the gender spectrum.
As a motivational speaker, fitness trainer and LGBT-rights activist, Bruce works to increase awareness of gender fluidity and was recently featured on National Geographic Channel's "Taboo: Changing Genders" in September.
Dr. Carys Massarella is likely the first transgender president of a hospital medical staff in the world, working at St. Joseph’s Healthcare hospital in Ontario, Canada.
The pioneering health care physician works to educate the medical world on trans issues and the best patient care services for trans individuals.
In October, Allyson Robinson, the Human Rights Campaign's first deputy director for employee programs, became the leader of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and OutServe, LGBT armed services support groups that merged.
The transgender activist is an army veteran and graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Her new appointment signals perhaps the next battle in transgender rights and visibility in the military.
Marsha P. Johnson (P for "Pay it no mind!") was a revered LGBT-rights activist and widely regarded mother figure who reached out and helped homeless NYC LGBT youth. She helped start S.T.A.R, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a group formed in the early '70s to feed street youth around the city.
In the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Johnson fought back against the police raids, standing up against discrimination. Her death in 1992 was written off as a suicide by police, but many believe the late icon was a hate-crime victim.
A contestant on the popular reality TV show "RuPaul's Drag Race" season three, Carmen Carrera competed as a drag queen and later came out as a transgender woman in May 2012 via an episode of ABC's "What Would You Do?" (VIDEO).
The 27-year-old Carrera documented her transition process on her YouTube page.
Dillon was the first person known to have transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male.
A British writer, physician, philosopher, and Buddhist, Dillon penned several books including, Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology (1946), Growing Up into Buddhism (1960), The Life of Milarepa (1962), Imji Getsul (1962), and numerous articles.
He was in love with another famous transgender person, Roberta Cowell, but she did not share his feelings.
He died in India -- where he had moved to study, meditate, and wrote under the name Lobzang Jivaka -- just days after sending his memoir, "Out Of The Ordinary," to his literary agent.
Ali Forney was a NYC homeless transgender youth whose name has become known through the Ali Forney Center, a NYC LGBT safe space and homeless shelter named in his memory.
Forney, who was known as "Luscious" when presenting as a woman, was murdered in Harlem in the 1997.
Nong Ariyaphon Southiphong was formerly known as Andy South on "Project Runway" season eight. Southiphong came out as a transgender woman in September 2012 and said, "I am blessed to be so accepted and welcomed just the way I am. May that love flow through me and onto many others. Live in love for the world needs it."
Singer-songwriter Our Lady J landed in the spotlight when her friendship with "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe became fodder for the gossip magazines in 2009.
Since then, she's been featured in an Out magazine cover story with her British pal and has played sold out shows around the world. Her debut album is due out in early 2013.
Pauline Park, born in and adopted from Korea, has become a trailblazer for both the Asian and transgender communities. Her advocacy work includes co-founding and chairing the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy group and starting the Queens Pride House and Iban/Queer Koreans of New York organization.
New York City honored Park by making her its
Balian Buschbaum underwent gender confirmation surgery in 2008 after retiring from pole vaulting. Buschbaum was Germany's second best female pole vaulter and competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
After his operation, Buschbaum said, "Courage is the road to freedom. I woke up in complete freedom today. The sky is wide open."
Stephen Whittle is a professor of equalities law at Manchester Metropolitan University in the U.K. and has been a prominent transgender-rights activist. Whittle, who was recognized with the Order of the British Empire, was instrumental to the European Court of Human Rights' creation of the Gender Recognition Act, legislation that allows trans people to change their legal gender.
Whittle co-founded Press for Change, a lobbying group for trans individuals, and openly speaks about being transgender to his students. He said in a 2010 article in a U.K. newspaper, "I won’t stop until I have won equal rights for the trans community. We’ve still a long way to go."
Ben Barres is an openly transgender professor of neurobiology at Stanford University. The academic scholar boasts degrees from MIT, Dartmouth and Harvard and brings a unique perspective to gender roles in the scientific community, having gone through gender confirmation surgery at 42 in 1997. He said his experience has given him a unique insight on the biases that women are less successful in science.
In 2006, Barres spoke with The New York Times and said, "I am very different from the average person. But I have experienced life both as a woman and as a man. I have some experience of how both sexes are treated."
Grace is the lead singer of punk band Against Me! She publicly discussed her struggles with gender dysphoria this year, coming out as transgender. When she announced the news at a concert it was followed by the song "Transgender Dysphoria Blues."
Speaking to Rolling Stone she said: "The cliché is that you're a woman trapped in a man's body, but it's not that simple. It's a feeling of detachment from your body and from yourself. And It's shitty, man. It's really fucking shitty."
Anna Grodzka became Poland's first transgender woman to serve on its parliament when she was elected in 2011.
On her victory, Grodzka said, "It is a symbolic moment, but we owe this symbolism not to me but to the people of Poland because they made their choice." The 58-year-old leader added, "They wanted a modern Poland, a Poland open to variety, a Poland where all people would feel good regardless of their differences. I cannot fail them in their expectations."
Mary Ann Horton is a prominent computer scientist who spearheaded Usenet (one of the oldest computer network communications systems) and was one of the developers of Berkeley UNIX, which became Sun Microsystems' software platform.
Not only is Horton a leader in business, but she is a vocal diversity advocate, speaking up for LGBT equality in the workplace. Horton chairs the "Transgender at Work" project and is a board member of the national organization.
Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons / Mary Ann Horton
Cowell is the first British trans woman to undergo gender confirmation. She transitioned in 1951.
Prior to that, she was a Spitfire pilot during World War II and a race car driver.
Cowell, who was friends with transgender man Michael Dillon, transitioned a year before celebrated American trans woman Christine Jorgenson underwent surgery in Denmark.
You can read Cowell's autobiography here.
Comedian Ian Harvie is the world's first trans male comedian and was declared "most unique stand-up comic in the country" by Frontiers magazine.
The Portland, Maine native became Margaret Cho's opening act for her fall 2006 tour and later produced and hosted his own self-titled live comedy show in Los Angeles. Harvie frequently works with LGBTQ fundraisers and mentors trans men around the nation.
Heather Cassils is a Canadian performance artist, body builder and personal trainer now living in Los Angeles. Unlike other artists working in more traditional mediums, Cassils uses her body to investigate issues related to gender, mass consumption and the industrial production of images, among others. Her conceptual pieces, which have been performed in museums and galleries around the world, also highlight transgender or "genderqueer" themes, like in "Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture," for which she spent 23 weeks documenting herself building her body to its maximum capacity by following a strict weightlifting regime, consuming the caloric intake of a 190-male athlete, and taking mild steroids. She also starred in Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video.
Earlier this year Cassils told The Huffington Post:
"If you're not going to exist as your biologically-assigned gender or you're not operating [as a transgender person] on one end of the gender spectrum, then you end up in that in between space, inviting that scrutiny... I'm trying to push or create a kind of visual language for my subjectivity -- trying to create visual options. You can tap into people's psyches and have them imagine things that they don't yet have words for. I think that's very powerful. I'm trying to create a slippery language, one -- much like my body -- that doesn't fit."
Writer-producer-director Andrea James started her career making advertisements for Chicago companies but later moved into film and television, creating Deep Stealth Productions, a company that aims to produce more accurate portrayals of transgender issues.
James is also known for voice coaching trans women. She worked with actress Felicity Huffman in her Oscar-nominated role in "Transamerica," and in 2008 she joined the board of directors of Outfest.
Jennell Jaquays is an American game designer and artist who has worked on titles such as "Dungeons & Dragons," "Age of Empires III" and "Halo Wars."
Jaquays came out as a trans in December 2011, posting an open letter on her blog (also found on Facebook), saying, "I have decided that I’m not going to hide, become invisible, or try and keep this a secret. That part of my transition is over. I have been a relatively high profile artist and game developer my entire career and I don’t see that changing because I am now acknowledging that I am, oh, by the way, transsexual."
The unmistakable iconic figure Amanda Lepore has captured the media's attention for years. She is a living work of art, frequently featured as photographer David LaChapelle's muse.
The New York City transgender nightlife entertainer's recent work includes singles "Champagne" and "My Hair Looks Fierce." Designer Jason Wu also made an Amanda Lepore doll.
Kim Petras made headlines in 2009 as the "world's youngest transsexual," undergoing sexual reassignment surgery at 16 years old.
Petras, a German pop singer, started taking hormones at 12. She released her first single, "Last Forever," which became a hit on YouTube.
Martine Rothblatt, chairman and chief executive officer of United Therapeutics Corporation (Unither), founded the company in 1996 and placed seventh on CNNMoney's 2011 "25 highest-paid women" list.
Prior to Unither, Rothblatt, who underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1994, founded and chaired Sirius Satellite Radio.
Photo Courtesy of Flickr User transhumanism
In a role that earned Hilary Swank an academy award, the actress brought the story of Brandon Teena, to life on the big screen in "Boys Don't Cry." The 1999 film was one of the first mainstream Hollywood productions that featured a trans person as its main character.
Brandon Teena was raped by two men. He reported the attack to the police but wasn't taken seriously. Teena's assailants later murdered him on New Year's Eve 1993 as an act of revenge.
Eden Lane is the only known openly transgender mainstream television broadcaster in the U.S. She hosts "In Focus with Eden Lane," a Colorado Public Television weekly program where Lane talks about the arts and culture.
The affable journalist never sought out to be a role model, and until a recent October interview with the Denver Post, Lane had not shared her own story. She also spoke with The Huffington Post and said she didn't want her being transgender to overshadow her work.
Lane started her career focusing on community affairs, reporting for PBS gay-issues news show "Colorado Outspoken" and for Logo.