You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

Skip to main

More Trans Trailblazers You Should Know About

BY: Trevor News
Illustrations of the following Trans Trailblazers: Jackie Shane, Lou Sullivan, Sylvia Rivera, Raquel Willis.

Trans Awareness Week is a special time for our community, a time when we share stories of trans individuals who paved the path for others; remember the history of trans resistance; celebrate trans joy, victories, and advancements; and finally, honor trans people who were lost to phobic violence. For Women’s History Month, we shared the stories of four trailblazing trans women who deserve some shine — for Trans Awareness Week, we’re introducing four more trans people who undeniably made an impact on LGBTQ history amid transphobia, violence, and oppression.

Jackie Shane

Jackie Shane, from Nashville, Tennessee, was a pioneer of soul music who left Jim Crow laws in the South for Toronto’s rhythm & blues scene. Best known for her song “Any Other Way,” Jackie enjoyed success in Toronto’s music scene in the 1950s and 60s. Jackie dressed androgynously for performances, skirted questions about her gender, and was considered a drag queen for many years before coming out as a trans woman in 2017. Before she passed away in 2019, Jackie was a prominent figure of the LGBTQ community in Toronto and has since been memorialized in documentaries and anthologies.

Lou Sullivan

Lou Sullivan was an American activist and writer, an early pioneer of gender affirming care and queer theory. Lou, who came out as a trans man in 1975, lived openly as a gay man but was initially denied gender-affirming surgery because of heterosexist regulations at the time that restricted surgery to straight trans people. Lou was a part of changing that restriction and removing many other roadblocks for trans people. Lou wrote many resources for trans people, including “FTM Newsletter,” and kept diaries that are now published. He passed away from AIDS-related complications in 1991.

Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera was a trans activist and community organizer. Sylvia was a trailblazer not just for the LGBTQ community but for the most vulnerable and oppressed members of the LGBTQ community: the houseless, the incarcerated, young people, trans folks and drag queens. In 1970, with other noted activist Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a group who rallied around the houseless LGBTQ community in NYC. Sylvia is also known for her 1973 “Gay Power” speech, where she criticized the abandonment of trans people by other LGB community members.

Raquel Willis

Raquel Willis is a writer, editor, and trans rights activist who, with civil rights attorney Chase Strangio, co-founded Transgender Week of Visibility and Action (March 25-31). Raquel was the first trans woman to act as executive editor of “Out” magazine. Raquel is also known for the Trans Obituaries Project which documented the lives of over 20 trans individuals who lost their lives to transphobic violence. Raquel also designed the Black Trans Flag, which replaced the white stripe in the Transgender Pride Flag with a black stripe. Raquel’s memoir, “The Risk It Takes To Bloom,” is set to come out this November.

Sue Cardenas-Soto is a Copywriter at The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention and mental health organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people. If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, our trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386 via chat, or by texting START to 678-678.

Read more from

Peggy Rajski with the words 25 Years in the background

The Trevor Project’s Founder and Interim CEO Reflects on 25 Years of Saving Lives

Here for one generation, here for the next To our expansive, vibrant Trevor Project community: As Founder of The Trevor Project with Randy Stone and Celeste Lecesne, I’m filled with insurmountable pride as our organization begins celebrating its 25th anniversary! Currently, I also serve as the organization’s Interim CEO. And as I think back on the last 25 years, my heart fills with immense gratitude for the many passionate individuals who’ve immeasurably contributed to The Trevor Project’s longstanding history of providing life-saving services 24/7 while growing our suicide prevention programs. In 1998, LGBTQ identities were not widely represented or understood…

Exploring Identity for Jewish American Heritage Month

As May rolls around, we recognize Jewish American Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the rich cultural history and contributions of Jewish Americans. As someone from a family with Jewish heritage, this month is a moment to connect to a tradition that is both religious and cultural. I have often been called “one ‘i’ away from having a Jewish last name” (my surname is Bernsten, but often misspelled as Bernstein)and, though I was not raised in a Jewish family, my paternal grandmother came from an Ashkenazi Jewish family in Lithuania and my identity – whether or not I could consider…