The famous transgender people featured in this list are featured because they made a stir, in one way or another.
Amazing trans people have existed probably as long as human societies have existed. Only its not always something that we find out about, being as its not really anyone's business but their own.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, the only ones we can remember are the ones who came out or were outed, this list contains a small number of these bad-ass people who prove that trans isn't a trend.
Trigger warning: Some of the source material contains triggering language. History and historians themselves can be quite transphobic.
1. Eleanor Rykener
The oldest entry on this list, Eleanor Rykener. Records exist for this Eleanor from 625 years ago but its not clear when she was born.
In 1394, she was arrested in London for prostitution and sodomy. There is not a lot of information about her since she lived such a long time ago, but this is what we do know:
She presented female and worked as an embroiderer and a barmaid (typically only jobs held by women) as well as a sex worker. She had relationships with men and women, but mostly men.
Eleanor’s identity has been erased or categorised by cis/het historians who refer to her male name being used on some court documents. As if medieval court clerks are above dead-naming.
These boneheads claim that she was a straight man who cross-dressed for work.
The mind boggles at how they can reach that conclusion when she clearly was not cis and presented female for the trial (and her life). So in the interests of un-erasure she tops our list, and you should spread the word about her too.
2. Alan L. Hart
Alan L. Hart was a pioneering radiologist, physician and tuberculosis researcher.
His greatest work was arguably when he discovered that x-rays could be used to detect tuberculosis, saving countless lives worldwide.
He attended medical school while presenting female but transitioned soon after.
While working as a doctor at at a hospital in Oregon he was recognised by one of his former classmates who outed him and he was forced to leave.
This was not the only time this happened to Alan, and it began to take its toll on him.
Writing in his novel The Undaunted about a character called Sandy Farquhar, he wrote:
"He had been driven from place to place, from job to job, for fifteen years because of something he could not alter any more than he could change the color of his eyes. Gossip, scandal, rumor always drove him on."
He was also one of the first recorded trans men to receive gender affirming surgery in the US.
3. Lucy Hicks Anderson
She was born in 1886 in Kentucky. As a young child she told her parents she wanted to be a girl and go by Lucy.
They took her to the family doctor who told them to respect her choices and so she transitioned with their full support.
When she was older she moved to California and married a man called Clarence Hicks and they operated a brothel together. They divorced in 1929 and she later married a soldier called Rueben Anderson who was stationed at Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York.
Perjury charges were brought against her because she signed the marriage document which swore that there were ‘no legal objections’ to the marriage. Speaking to the press she said “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman. I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.” Sadly she was found guilty of perjury and later she was convicted of fraud because she cashed cheques she received from the government as the wife of a US soldier.
4. Charley Parkhurst
Charley Parkhurst, also known as One-Eyed-Charley was a famous American Rancher in the 1800s. He was born and raised in an orphanage in New England but he ran away and changed his name before he turned 18.
As many aspirational Americans did, he followed the Gold Rush out West and built a reputation as one of the greatest stage coach drivers running over Mt. Madonna on the West Coast.
He gained his nickname 'One-Eyed-Charley' after he was kicked in the left eye by a horse that had been startled by a rattlesnake.
Charley was only outed after his death.
5. Sir Lady Java
Sir Lady Java who's still active today, rose to fame in the 1960’s as an entertainer and exotic dancer renowned for her perfect hourglass shape.
Born in 1943 she transitioned at an early age with the support of her mother and began dancing and singing in local nightclubs. In her twenties she moved to Los Angeles and became associated with stars like Redd Foxx, Sammy Davis Jr. and Richard Pryor.
She was performing at Redd Foxx’s famous club and it’s rumoured that her and Davis Jr. were a couple for a while.
In 1967 the LAPD began shutting down Java’s famous performances citing a local law prohibiting "impersonation, by means of costume or dress, a person of the opposite sex.”
In response she picketed the club and hired the American Civil Liberties Union to overturn the ruling. Eventually it was overturned in 1969 after a separate dispute with another party but she was instrumental in this change.
6. Chevalier d’Eon
Chevalier d’Eon was an 18th century, French spy, diplomat and soldier. She had the genius idea to disguise her transgender identity, by coming out as transgender...
Bear with us it will make sense soon.
In 1728 D'Éon was born at the Hôtel d'Uzès in Tonnerre, Burgundy, into a poor noble family.
Assigned male at birth she excelled at school and in her military training and moved to Paris at an early age.
Following this she joined the Secret du Roi, the secret network of the kings spies and reported directly to Louis XV.
After years of service, she was passed over for a promotion so she published a tell all book of the secrets of the kings spies.
In her later years she applied to be assigned female at birth, stating she was assigned male only to ensure she would inherit the family estate.
This genius ruse paid off and was accepted by the French and the British government - she was living in London at the time.
Her gender was made official and she lived her remaining years 33 years completely free to be herself. Oh and she was still a badass fencer too.
7. Willmer ‘Little Ax” Broadnax
Willmer ‘Little Ax’ was a talented gospel quartet singer in the 20th century. He was born in 1916 in Texas and was taken with music from an early age.
After moving to Southern California in the mid-1940s, Wilmer and his brother, William, joined the Southern Gospel Singers.
Later Willmer and William formed the Five Trumpets, they were both lead singers and Willmer was known for his powerful tenor voice.
Following this he performed with the Fairfield Four and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi before forming his own group called Little Ax and the Golden Echoes.
He performed with his brother, who accepted and supported him, through his life. Willmers trans identity was discovered after his death in 1992.
These incredible, famous, transgender people show that there have been people like us throughout history, out and closeted who achieved great things. We have always been here and we always will... Sorry Grandma but there was such a thing as being transgender back in your day!