Stars you didn't know are proudly transgender

Very recently, the world's social climate has progressed enough to the point where people who identify as a different gender from which they were biologically born have been able to publicly and openly live the way they want and need to live. Strides toward transgender pride and acceptance have been spurred by well-known, well-liked, and brave members of the entertainment industry, such as Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, and Chaz Bono. Here are some other stars leading the way for the transgender community.

Lana and Lilly Wachowski

The Wachowski siblings wrote and directed one of the most beloved and innovative science-fiction movies of all time: The Matrix. They're also responsible for the less-well-received The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, as well as other visually dazzling and philosophically interesting films like Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending. A common theme in their work is identity, which isn't too surprising. 

Lana Wachowski, nee Larry, says she first became conscious of her true gender while attending a Catholic elementary school. "I have a formative memory of walking through the girls' line and hesitating, knowing that my clothes didn't match," she told The New Yorker. She transitioned to female while shooting the Matrix sequels, while Lilly Wachowski, formerly Andy Wachowski, came out as transgender in 2016.

Ines Rau

Since the '50s, Playboy has been the standard-bearer of dude culture. Influencing everything from Maxim to Spike TV, the magazine has told guys what they were "supposed" to like, which included everything from clothes to naked women. But even Playboy can progress. 

In November 2017, the magazine's "Playmate of the Month" was a 27-year-old French model named Ines Rau. What's so progressive about Playboy publishing naked photos of a woman they deemed attractive? Rau is the first openly transgender Playboy Playmate. "It's the right thing to do," said Hugh Hefner, the late Playboy founder and chief creative officer. "We're at a moment where gender roles are evolving." 

Gavin Rayna Russom

One of the biggest and most welcome musical comebacks of 2017 belonged to LCD Soundsystem. Bandleader James Murphy's collective of electronic and traditional musicians, dormant since 2011, returned with American Dream, one of the most acclaimed records of the year. Along for the ride was synth player, drummer, and instrument builder Gavin Rayna Russom. An indie rock and electronic music veteran, Russom came out as transgender in 2017, and is now publicly living life as a woman. She uses feminine pronouns but continues to use her old name.

Isis King

Isis King ranks in the annals of America's Next Top Model history for three reasons. She's one of the few contestants to have appeared in multiple cycles–the eleventh in 2008 and the seventeenth in 2011. She's one of the few stars of the show to actually go on to a successful modeling career. And she's also the first transgender model to ever compete on the show. GLAAD president Neil Giuliano called King's participation an "unprecedented opportunity for a community that is underrepresented on television."

Alexis Arquette

Alexis Arquette was a member of the famous Hollywood Arquette clan. Her grandfather, Cliff Arquette was a famous radio and early TV comedian best known for his country bumpkin character, Charley Weaver. Her father, meanwhile, was Lewis Arquette, an actor who co-starred on The Waltons. And her siblings include performers David Arquette, Rosanna Arquette, and Oscar winner Patricia Arquette. 

Alexis was an actress, too, certainly one of the first prominent transgender people on screen. She played a memorable role in Adam Sandler's 1998 movie The Wedding Singer: George, the Boy George-obsessed keyboard player in the titular wedding singer's band. Her work on The Surreal Life in 2006 also increased trans visibility on TV. Sadly, Arquette died in 2016 at age 47.

Alexandra Billings

Jeffrey Tambor got the headlines and Emmys for playing a male transitioning to female late in life on Amazon's thoughtful dramedy Transparent, but creator Jill Soloway made sure to round out the cast with real trans actors playing trans characters. Alexandra Billings has a major role on the series as Davina, a close friend to Tambor's Moira who helps guide the character in the early stages of her new life as a woman. A decade before Transparent, Billings made TV history: She's the first transgender female actress to play a transgender character on the small screen, with her role in the 2005 made-for-TV movie Romy and Michele: In the Beginning.

Jake Zyrus

In the mid-2000s, Philippines-based singer Charice scored a bunch of hits in her country of origin before successfully crossing over to the U.S. market with the 2010 album Charice and a recurring role on Glee. 

In 2017, the singer transitioned to male and quietly announced it publicly by changing his social media account names from Charice to Jake Zyrus. "I just didn't think that anyone would pick it up," Zyrus told USA Today. "But when…everyone was talking about it, I was like, 'I guess this is the perfect time.' It was Pride Month."

Fallon Fox

Raised as male from birth, mixed martial arts fighter Fallon Fox underwent gender reassignment and breast augmentation surgery in Thailand in 2006 and lived as a woman for seven years before making it into the women's division of the UFC. Fox's decision to compete as a woman was controversial–UFC commentator Joe Rogan once argued on his podcast (via Vice) that she was born a man and should fight male fighters because of her "bone density." But Fox was allowed to proceed, and quickly racked up a 4-1 record.

Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos is an influential presence in the music world, helping to invent and popularize the concept of electronic music. In 1968, Carlos released Switched-On Bach, a collection of well-known classical pieces recorded on spooky, space-age-sounding Moog synthesizers, and it hit the Billboard top 10  albums chart. Carlos' best known work, however, is probably her contributions to the score of Stanley Kubrick's 1972 film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange. Carlos would also compose music for The Shining and Tron. 

But Carlos wasn't only a musical pioneer–she was also a pioneer in transgender acceptance. Carlos first recorded under her birth name and assigned gender as a man named Walter Carlos. In 1979, she announced that she had undergone reassignment surgery in 1972.

Janet Mock

Writer and activist Janet Mock has had a long journey on the road to self-actualization. Born male in Hawaii, Mock engaged in sex work as a teenager to pay for her sex reassignment surgery. (She chose the name Janet after one of her idols, Janet Jackson.) 

Mock's professional career since that time has included one major success after another. Her often brutally honest, inspiring memoir Redefining Realness was a bestseller, and she's worked as an editor for Marie Claire and the online edition of People. Mock is also a writer and producer on Ryan Murphy's Pose, a 1980s-set series that's set to feature the largest cast of transgender actors in TV history.