35 Trans Women I Had #Herocrushes On In 2013

A #HeroCrush has nothing to do with romantic or sexual attraction. You don’t even have to want to be friends with the person. Instead, it’s all about people you admire and look to for inspiration and influence. It’s that special feeling you get when you look at someone and you think, “dang girl, I want to smash the patriarchy with you!” You can see yourself holding hands with them marching in a parade or creating a human blockade. You fantasize about a future spent together dismantling systems of oppression side by side. You want to follow them on twitter and you make sure to tune in when you hear that they’re going to be on MSNBC or NPR. For me, a lot of my #herocrushes in 2013 happened to be trans women. Some of these people are heroes because they faced serious oppression or obstacles, others are heroes because they’re thriving in their fields, but all of these trans women deserve to be recognized and remembered this year.

1. Janet Mock

Every time she puts out another blog post or appears on Melissa Harris Perry or HuffPost Live I have to stop and pay attention. She is consistantly bringing up issues that others who have audiences her size simply don’t talk about. Whether it’s talking about Islan Nettles being misgendered at her own vigil, the fact that trans women of color’s indiegogo campaigns don’t seem to raise a lot of money or talking about Kerry Washington on Scandal, she always brings important points and a unique perspective to the issue. She has a book called Redefining Realness coming out in February and she’s poised to have a great 2014. She’s a great leader not just for trans women, not just for women of color, but for all women.

2. Laverne Cox

I know we seem to talk about how much we love her a lot, but that’s only because she deserves it. She’s the only trans woman of color who is a regular on a TV show, and on top of that, she’s playing a trans woman character who is one of the most fascinating and enthralling characters on TV this year. Outside of TV, she’s an outspoken advocate for the rights of trans women of color everywhere. She’s producing a documentary on CeCe McDonald, appears on TV and the internet to talk about being a black trans woman in America and is just an all-around awesome person. Cox is radically changing the way television and television viewers see trans women for the better and I can’t wait for the next season of Orange is the New Black.

3. CeCe McDonald

Thrown in a men’s prison for defending herself from racist and transphobic attackers, she has been able to smile and inspire all of us. McDonald has brought to light a huge issue that most in America did not know about- the horrible and unfair treatment that trans women face in the prison system. McDonald continues to speak out about trans issues from inside prison and you can support her by writing to her.


4. Carmen Carrera

Not only does she continue to wow me every time she comes out with a new photoshoot or video showing off her impeccable style and amazing looks, but she also knows how to speak up about important issues. A change.org petition was started by her fans and supporters asking Victoria’s Secret to make her the first transgender model to walk in their show and got over 45,000 signatures. Plus, she’s not afraid to call out her friend (who is in the room) when she says she doesn’t want Carmen to go out clubbing with her because it’s “straight night” at the club.

5. Miss Major

Miss Major is one of the true legends of the American queer rights movement. (She was actually at Stonewall!) This year we saw a documentary about her illustrious life being made called Major!. The documentary won Project of the Month at IndieWire and has been covered by GLAAD, Colorlines, and Huffington Post.

via abc news

via ABC News

6. Coy Mathis

Only six years old and already winning life changing battles for the rights of her peers. When her school in Colorado was trying to force her to use the boy’s bathroom, her parent’s sued and won a landmark court case saying that trans students are allowed to use the correct facilities for their gender. Coy is just trying to live her life, and in doing so is making life better for transgender students all around her state.

via newsday

via Newsday

7. Fallon Fox

She seems to face almost as many verbal punches from transphobes outside the ring as she does actual punches from opponents in the ring, and she manages to bounce back from all of them. Even though she’s faced bullying and incorrect allegations that she has an unfair advantage, she hasn’t backed down and continues to fight in the sport she loves. She currently has a record of 3-1-0.

8. Eli Erlick

The founder and director of the Trans Student Equality Resources, national advisory council member for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and an activist who fights for trans students’ rights in California and across the country. One of the things she worked toward was to bring about California’s sweeping new student’s rights bill. She was named to both the Trans 100 and Refinery29’s 30 Under 30 lists.


9. Lovemme Corazón

Their memoir Trauma Queen was released this year and is one of the most moving and powerful pieces of writing I’ve read in a long time. In it, they talk about gender, abuse, depression, activism and racism. By publishing their memoirs and writing such an open book, they are telling a story that a lot of trans women experience but few get to tell about. Plus, their blogging, videos and self-created media posted on tumblr and elsewhere continues to change my life.

10. All the ladies who are in the Angels of Change calendar

This calendar raises money for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Division of Adolescent Medicine Center for TransYouth Health and Development and gives young trans people the opportunity to get all dressed up and show off. Proceeds from all all of the calendars purchased go directly to the center. It is coordinated by Bamby Salcedo and according to the website, “Although they are always an attractive bunch, they’re not chosen not based on their looks, but on their willingness to create change, within themselves, and within their community.”

Screen shot 2013-05-30 at 6.36.14 PM

11. Alysia Yeoh and Tong, comic book characters

The first realistic and positive portrayal of a trans woman in the mainstream DC comics universe, Alysia was created and introduced by Gail Simone in Batgirl and came out as trans in issue #19. She’s the most prominent and mainstream trans woman to ever appear in comics and is also one of the few whose transness isn’t tied into fantasy or sci fi elements. Another comic book character who came out as a trans girl this year, Tong is one of the Moloid (a race of underground humanoids) children who are members of the Future Foundation, a sort-of spin off of Marvel Comic’s Fantastic Four. Her interactions with her siblings, friends and teachers in FF are some of the cutest depictions of trans youth in fiction that I’ve ever seen.

12. Sarah McBride

Former student body president at American University and current trans activist in her home state of Deleware, she was influential in passing the state’s transgender non-discrimination law this year. She spoke at the 17th Annual HRC dinner, talking about her experiences coming out as transgender and fighting for trans rights in Delaware. We talked with Sarah back in 2012, and she’s only gone on to do bigger and better things since then.


13. Laura Jane Grace

The lead singer and guitarist for the band Against Me! came out as trans last year and has just gotten more and more rock and roll as time goes on. She released the kickass True Trans EP this year and continues to have one of the cutest families around. Against Me! is releasing a new CD, Transgender Dysphoria Blues in January and is touring right now.

via Ryan Harding Photography

via Ryan Harding Photography

14. Paris Lees

Lees keeps on getting named one of the most influential LGBTQ people in the UK, and the more I read her articles and watch her TV appearances the more I can see why. She was a part of the BBC’s “100 Women” event, appeared on BBC’s Question Time and continues to advocate for trans rights in her native country.

via zimbio

via zimbio

15. Andy Marra

Marra’s article on her experiences being a Korean adoptee, going back to that country to find her Korean mother and coming out to her as transgender makes me cry every single time I read it. I wish that more coming out stories were as touching as this one. If you haven’t checked it out, please, go do so now.

16. Bamby Salcedo

She’s not only the president of the Trans-Latin@ Coalition, which advocates for the needs of transgender Latin@s in the US, she also works with the HIV positive community (of which she is a member) and trans and Latin@ youth. She’s the person behind the Angels of Change Calendar.

17. Kokumo

Kokumo is an African-American transgender advocate, performer, artist, writer, organizer and singer. In addition to all of her activism, she also released an EP, There Will Come A Day, in February and released a video for the title track in September. She dedicated the video to the countless trans women of color who have lost their lives due to violence.

18. Audrey Mbugua

She’s a transgender woman from Kenya who is suing the Kenya National Examinations Council and the Attorney General in order to have them recognize her status as a woman. While the government argues that since she “was born male” and “hasn’t completed her transition,” she is having a hard time finding employment and is trying to change her national ID card and passport so that she can travel, continue her education and start a career.

via abc local

via ABC Local

19. Cecilia Chung

Chung was the first openly trans woman and first openly HIV positive person to serve on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. One of the founding producers of Trans March, this immigrant from Hong Kong also works tirelessly to educate the medical community on trans* health issues.

20. Sadie

An eleven-year-old trans girl who decided to write an essay to President Obama after he mentioned gay rights in his inaugural speech but left out trans* people. Her essay was earnest, touching and brave.


21. All the trans women who have written for Autostraddle

Not only was the trans*scribe series filled with amazing and diverse stories about trans women’s experiences and attitudes, but trans women like Morgan M., Morgan Collado, Vivian, Maryam and Savannah have continued to contribute great pieces to Autostraddle.

22. Ari South

South had previously competed on Project Runway before coming out as trans, and returned this year to the show’s All-Star edition. Despite being misgendered on the show and being the first person to leave, she managed to show that she’s talented and one to watch in the fashion world.

via ny daily news

via NY Daily News

23. Cassidy Lynn Campbell

Only sixteen years old, Campbell was the first openly transgender girl elected homecoming queen in California. After winning, she was unfortunately bombarded with transphobic and transmisogynistic attacks. Even after facing that, she says she is moving on to “amazing opportunities” and “bigger and better things.”

24. All the trans women who were murdered or violently attacked for being trans

I’m certainly not including these women on this list to celebrate the “accomplishment” of being murdered. They’re on here for a different reason than everyone else. A hero doesn’t just have to be someone who you want to work alongside, it can also be someone who’s memory you want to honor in your actions and daily life. These are women who are our sisters, friends and loved ones and who I want to do right by. These are women who really deserve to be honored and revered. They are the kind of heroes who we should never forget, who we should make sure to memorialize. This year, like many years before, we saw far, far too many trans women being attacked because of their trans status. This is especially true of trans women of color, and especially black trans women in the United States and Latina trans women in South and Central America. We need to remember these names and honor their memories.

27. Calliope Wong

Wong applied to Smith College (a women’s college) in 2012, but was denied admission because her FAFSA form was marked “male.” She brought to light the issues with many women’s colleges admittance policies and became the face for the fight to make sure that women’s colleges are safe spaces for trans women.

28. Naomi Fontanos

A transgender woman from the Philippines, she is the co-founder of Gender and Development Advocates and has spoken in front of the Philippine House of Representatives to advocate for trans women’s rights. One of the many goals she is working toward is to pass anti-discrimination bills that would protect trans workers.

Clockwise from left: Rau, Wenzel, Talackova, Wanzer

Clockwise from left: Rau, Wenzel, Wanzer, Talackova

29. Ines Rau, Kylan Wenzel, Jenna Talackova and Arisce Wanzer, models and beauty queens

While some might think that there’s nothing revolutionary about trans women modeling or entering beauty pageants, I would have to disagree. Holding up trans women (and especially trans women of color) as fashion and beauty icons who society is supposed to look up to and follow goes against everything trans women and women of color are taught about beauty standards.

30. Jazz

Another star of the bright future of trans advocates, this twelve year old has been the subject of a documentary, I Am Jazz, has appeared multiple times on TV, has won several youth advocate awards, and was honored at the GLAAD Media Awards for her work.

31. Brandi Ahzionae

Ahzionae is a hair stylist and community builder in Washington, DC who was featured in JET Magazine this year. She is the creator of the DMV Trans Circulator, which “is directly responsible for spreading information within the trans community” and building connections between trans people in and out of prison. By standing up and being a notable voice for African-American trans women, she is helping to change the way media and society views trans women of color.

32. Jen Richards and Angelica Ross, roommates

Richards is a writer, organizer and master of the internet. She’s the creator of We Happy Trans and one of the directors of The Trans 100, (which was founded by Toni D’orsay, another #herocrush worthy trans woman) both of which highlight positive stories within the transgender community. Ross is a speaker, singer/songwriter and activist. She is the coordinator of the TransWorks program, which is an “employment initiative geared towards the economic empowerment of transgender and gender non-conforming people.”

33. Mia Tu Mutch

A program assistant at LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center) in San Francisco, Mutch works hard to make things better for queer youth in the Bay Area. She has also fought for “racial justice, LGBTQ equality, affordable housing, street safety, and much more” in her community. She also works as the Chair of the Housing LGBTQ and TAY Committee of the San Francisco Youth Commission.

Clockwise: Roman, Castro, Inurritegui-LInt

Clockwise: Roman, Castro, Inurritegui-LInt

34. Danielle Castro, Maria Roman and Arianna Inurritegui-Lint, Latina Activists

Three of the honorees on the Honor41 list, which looks at 41 Latin@s who are role models in the LGBTQ community. Inurritegui-Lint is East Chair for TransLatin@ Coalition and works with the Florida Health Department in the HIV/AIDS community. Roman is an actress, beauty queen and Risk Reduction Counselor in Los Angeles who works toward HIV prevention and transgender rights. Castro is the Community Mobilization Specialist at The Center of Excellence for Transgender Health in San Francisco and works as an HIV test counselor and transgender cultural sensitivity training educator.

Gossett on right via reinagosset.com

Gossett on right via reinagosset.com

35. Reina Gossett

Gossett is the Director of Membership at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, working to build community there. She speaks out and writes out for the rights of trans and gender non-conforming people to be in charge of their own genders and advocates for the remembrance and celebration of trans history. She is a powerful advocate for trans people of color and a strong voice for trans victims of prison and police brutality.

I’m sure I left off a ton of awesome, amazing and world-changing trans women, so if I left you off, please forgive me. Who do you think should be added to this list?

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Mey Rude is a fat, trans, Latina lesbian living in LA. She's a writer, journalist, and a trans consultant and sensitivity reader. You can follow her on twitter, or go to her website if you want to hire her.

Mey has written 572 articles for us.


  1. I want to specifically mention Monica Roberts (the TransGriot) who tells it like it is 365/24. Wanna find out about trans people of color… her website (transgriot.com) is bar none the best source for it. While she’s not someone I always agree with, I think Cristan Williams (who has posted on Autostraddle) did a tremendous job exposing the “Pacific Justice Institute” and how they manufactured lies about a trans girl high school student in Colorado because she was using the girl’s restroom as well as a number of investigative pieces about trans exclusionary radical feminists (aka ‘terfs’). Another person who needs mentioning is Danielle Askini, a tireless campaigner for trans rights, an incredible organizer of events (like the Seattle trans march) and did this despite dealing with some horrendous health issues this past year. I wish her well and give her my thanks for all she’s done. Yollada Suanyot, a very well known trans woman in Thailand (because she used to be the lead singer of a pop band called “Venus Flytrap”) ran for political office in 2012 and won! She’s been a powerful advocate for changing much of the paradigm trans people live under in that country and challenging much of the objectifying trans marginalization in South Asia. Red Durkin is a wonderful stand up comedian who also creates great stage performances and written pieces. She’s also responsible for much of the movement going against the transwomen’s exclusion at Michfest this year and pretty much cornered a lot of performers who were going to appear there this year at examining and coming public on this issue. Kalki Subramaniam is a wonderful activist/actress and filmmaker in Tamil Nadu in India who has been at the forefront of a lot of the groundbreaking activism by the trans community in that country (the largest trans community in the world) and really made them a force to be reckoned with. And for sheer bravery, Masha Bast was one of Russia’s leading civil rights attorney’s who then transitioned in 2013 and proceeded to challenge Putin’s regime on a large number of human rights issues. We should all have that kind of fortitude.

    • My first thought when I finished the list was that Cristan Williams definitely should have been included. She’s worked tirelessly exposing a number of the (particularly aggressive) lies and defamations that have been created by the anti-trans right and anti-trans radical feminists this year, and particularly many of those that have been targeting trans children(!). For her work standing up for Jane Doe in Colorado alone I think she definitely belongs on this kind of list.

      I also think Monica Roberts does important writing, although I wish that misogynistic tropes like “pimp-slapping” (really?!) would disappear from her blog entirely.

      • I totally admit not everyone likes Monica’s style or humor, but she does an amazing amount of effort on behalf of the larger trans community and, specially, black trans women. She had a lot to with exposing the recent Ani DiFranco debacle. I don’t know of anyone who discusses the intersections of racism and transphobia better than her and if you look at much of what Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Kokumo say or any other trans advocate talking about race, you’ll find out Monica said it, and said it more forcefully years ago. We take it for granted people in the trans community know about figures like Miss Major or CeCe McDonald or events like Dewey’s Lunch Counter but that was NOT the case even 4-5 years ago and Monica is very much responsible for demanding the black trans experience be seen as core and crucial part of trans history.

        • Definitely, and I totally acknowledge and respect that she has played a key role in bringing some of these intersectional issues and conversations to the forefront. But I also am just not willing to hedge on the pimp-slapping stuff… a pimp-slap is male violence used to control women. That’s just what it is, and I don’t really see any ambiguity on that.

        • I very much agree with you about that term. But in a larger view I also think there are a lot of terms (eg. the term “fish” “ladyboy” “newhalf”) which derive from non-white communities which are frequently used by those communities and that I, as a white person, don’t feel it’s my place to police them. Not saying you don’t have a right to call her on that or register your own dislike of it.

  2. What a great list! I feel like it’s a huge accomplishment for AS that most of the ladies on this list are already familiar to me =) Thank you, Mey and the rest of the AS family, for dedicating so much time and effort to increase visibility of trans* women and QWOC.

  3. this is incredible mey! i am so glad both that i now have the concept of a #herocrush and all these amazing women to apply it to.

  4. What an amazing list, These women give me hope that if I keep trying maybe someday somehow, I can get there.

  5. Hello, Mey.

    Outstanding collection of women! As many are my friends, I may be biased, but I think your #herocrushes are more than worthy and deserve greater notice.

    I do have a minor quibble that I fully admit comes from a slightly bruised ego. I am the creator of The Trans 100. Jen, who created the phenomenal We Happy Trans project (also linked above, and I co-direct it and she’s an awesome woman who made possible the work and without whom it wouldn’t have gone as far as it did.

    I am thrilled to see Marra, Bamby, Angelica, Cecelia, and so many other amazing women included in this set of crushes, and look forward to even more incredible women being seen and heard in the next year as civil rights battle of our time continues throughout this year.

    • Hi, I’m super sorry for the mistake! A part of the sentence was left out and it should have read something like “she’s the creator and founder of We Happy Trans and one of the directors of The Trans 100,” instead of what it says. (that’s why the link is the way it is). I meant absolutely no disrespect and we’re working on fixing it.

      • Thank you so much! I thought it might be something like that.

        Thanks for sharing your #herocrushes, especially!

  6. Thank you for this amazing and inspiring list! And, Mey, thank you for your own bravery and writing, too!

  7. So many amazing and inspiring women. I am so impressed by the strength and bravery exhibited by all of the aforementioned activists; particularly the younger girls who are visible and fighting so hard at such a young age to improve things for all trans* people.

  8. This is a fantastic list.

    If I could nominate someone who isn’t on it, it would be Christine Smith, creator of The Princess webcomic, which is a great webcomic about a trans girl named Sarah, and Christine Love, who is popular in nerd (especially anime fan) circles for her computer games, which incorporate queer and feminist themes.

  9. Mey, this list is awesome! I love the diversity here (racial, age, and otherwise). The one thing I’d have to say is that (and I’m not familiar with them) Lovemme Corazón might not identify as a trans woman but rather as a non-binary trans* person, so if I were to quibble with anything, I’d say to make that explicit. Other than that, awesome!

  10. a) Wonderful and inspiring article!

    b) As a trans woman myself, can I just be mad at how friggin’ attractive these ladies are? BRB, going to cry in a corner.

  11. Great article! I just posted a piece myself on trans girls and beauty – I have a personal fascination with this subject because I have a few trans friends who’ve talked to me about it. I can’t imagine having to learn all the female ephemera later in life – it’s so ingrained in cis women from the start.

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