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Black Transgender Actresses Who Are Making Their Mark

Nov 20, 2020 08:00AM ● By Boitumelo Masihleho
black transgender actresses

Transgender Awareness Week is celebrated every year between November 13 and 19. This awareness week ends with Transgender Day of Remembrance, first marked in 1998. The day commemorates all transgenders lives lost to anti-transgender violence in the year. 

Movies such as Boys Don’t Cry and Dallas Buyer’s Club where non-transgender actors played transgender roles show the need for more representation of transgender people in Hollywood. TV has been more progressive than films, with more TV series bringing visibility to this community. These are four Black transgender actresses who are making their mark.

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Laverne Cox


Laverne Cox jumped to stardom in 2013 when she played a transgender inmate in a women’s prison on Netflix's Orange Is the New Black. Cox was nominated for three Emmy awards for her role and became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy in an acting category in 2014.

It was also in 2014 that Cox became the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine. She has won awards including a SAG Award and been named one of The Grio’s 100 Most Influential African Americans. Cox continues to use her influence to promote LGBTQ+ rights.

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Dominique Jackson


Dominique Jackson rose to the spotlight due to her role as Elektra Abundance on FX's Pose, a show that captures New York City’s ballroom culture scene in the 1980s and 1990s. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Jackson is not only an actress but a model and author as well.

She modeled for Vogue España and released her autobiography in 2014 titled The Transsexual from Tobago. Jackson is an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights through her partnerships with non-profit organizations such as Destination Tomorrow in the Bronx.

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MJ Rodriguez


Another star from Pose is New Jersey-born MJ Rodriguez. The ballroom scene depicted in the show was nothing new to Rodriguez who became involved at 14 years old with her father’s support. She went to Berklee College of Music where she was cast in an off-Broadway production of Rent and her acting career began.

She has starred in other notable television series such as Nurse JackieThe Carrie Diaries, and Luke Cage. Last year, Rodriguez became the first openly transgender woman to win Best Actress - Television at the Imagen Awards and became the first Afro-Latina trans woman to partner with Olay Body. Using her influence, Rodriguez has been at the forefront of gaining momentum for the Black-Trans-Lives movement during protests earlier this year.

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Angelica Ross

Wisconsin-born Angelica Ross shot to stardom when she acted in a web series titled Her Story which was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama in 2016. From there she starred in other TV series such as TNT’s Claws and CBS’ Doubt before her critically acclaimed role as Candy Ferocity in Pose.

Ross is also a businesswoman. She founded TransTech Social Enterprises, a company that focuses on economically empowering transgender people. She’s also an activist for LGBTQ+ rights and was the first openly transgender person to host the 2020 Presidential Candidate Forum on LGBTQ Issues.

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 Boitumelo Masihleho is a South African digital content creator. She graduated with a Bachlor of Arts from Rhodes University in Journalism and Media Studies and Politics and International Studies.  

She's an experienced multimedia journalist who is committed to writing balanced, informative and interesting stories on a number of topics. Boitumelo has her own YouTube channel where she shares her love for affordable beauty and lifestyle content. 

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