8 Local and National Inspirational Transgender Leaders (Who Aren't Caitlyn Jenner)

Trans figures who are creating change in their communities and across the country

Jason A. Michael

With Caitlyn Jenner busy upholding the bashing of trans folk by comedian Dave Chappelle, Pride Source thought it would take a look at some kinder, gentler but still kick-ass trans individuals whose activism inspires us. We asked four Michiganders why they do the work they do and reached out to four trans leaders from across the country as well. 


Lilianna Angel Reyes

Lilianna Angel Reyes. Photo: Lilianna Angel Reyes.

Reyes is the executive director of the Trans Sistas of Color Project and the director of the Ruth Ellis Center's youth drop-in center.

"I do what I do for my community because when I transitioned at 17 in Saginaw there was nothing or nobody I could look to for guidance or help. Although there were some trans groups hours away, nobody looked like me, no trans women of color. I wanted to create something so that people like me … could at least feel included somewhere. I wanted little Black and brown girls to feel like they could be something and live their wildest dreams and transitioning didn't stop them."


Brayden Misiolek

Brayden Misiolek. Photo: Transcend the Binary.

Misiolek is the co-founder and executive director of Transcend the Binary, an agency aimed at supporting trans and gender diverse folks and their families in developing a pathway to achieve their health and wellness goals.

"I advocate for our community largely because of my late friend and Transcend the Binary co-founder, Darnell Jones. He supported me on my journey as I sought hormone treatment, and on that path taught me so much about empowerment. We shared the belief that change for any community – especially the trans and non-binary community – must be driven by its people. He helped me realize my own skills and capability, just as I came to understand our fragmented healthcare system, its impact on people like me, and why a holistic view of wellness is necessary for change."


Jey'nce Poindexter Mizrahi

Jey'nce Poindexter Mizrahi. Photo: Instagram.

Mizrahi is a case manager and head of the housing department for the Ruth Ellis Center. She is also vice president of the Trans Sistas of Color Project. 

"Many people wander through and navigate life either searching for their purpose or doing things by trial and error. I, on the other hand, have received my instructions and assignments directly from God. He has laid out my path to serve his people, all of his people, and I'm committed to do just that. My Bishop informed me that I would save people through fulfilling my professional duties and responsibilities while simultaneously saving and allowing those who have been harmed by churches to be reconnected to God by the way in which I handle them."


Amy Hunter

Amy Hunter. Photo: Amy Hunter.

Hunter is the executive director of Outfront Kalamazoo.

"I do what I do because if I have privilege, I am morally bound to use it for the good of my community. It is a moral imperative to help those who do not live with the privilege I am fortunate to have."


Across the Country

Mara Keisling

Washington, DC

Keisling is the founder and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)  in Washington. She has made appearances on CNN, MSNBC, C-SPAN and even Fox News as her profile increases. In an interview with Mashable, she spoke on her role in the community and how NCTE has helped in her personal mission:

"I am so fortunate that I've gotten to be part of this really effective, fast-moving trans policy movement. I hope I've done my share. But it's all really been joint efforts — I mean, I guess I'm the founder of NCTE, that's probably my biggest accomplishment. I think without NCTE there would not have been such a solid LGBTQ [political] movement. It could've been a gay rights movement with trans people trying to get in."


Rachel Levine

Washington, DC

Levine, a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, is a senior government official who is currently serving as the assistant secretary for health (ASH) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She is the first out transgender person to be confirmed to federal office by the U.S. Senate. Upon her swearing-in she said the following:

"I stand on the shoulders of those LGBTQ+ individuals who came before me, both known and unknown. May this appointment today be the first of many more to come and create a diverse and more inclusive future…The time is now for our community to move the bar forward toward diversity, and I am proud to wear this uniform and answer that call."


Gavin Grimm

Gloucester, Virginia

When Grimm came out as a transgender boy to his school, the Gloucester County School District school board adopted a discriminatory rule that prohibited boys and girls "with gender identity issues" from using common restrooms. Instead, Grimm and similar students were directed to an alternative "appropriate private facility." Grimm decided to fight his case in court and took it all the way to the Supreme Court. He won. Upon winning, Grimm said the following in an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) article:

"I am glad that my years-long fight to have my school see me for who I am is over. Being forced to use the nurse's room, a private bathroom, and the girl's room was humiliating for me, and having to go to out-of-the-way bathrooms severely interfered with my education. Trans youth deserve to use the bathroom in peace without being humiliated and stigmatized by their own school boards and elected officials."


Sarah McBride 

Washington, DC

McBride is the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. Her appearance at the 2016 Democratic National Convention marked the first time a transgender person spoke at a major party convention. Her history-making career created more headlines when she won Delaware's state Senate race, becoming the highest-ranking openly transgender state legislator in U.S. history. After winning, she reflected on the significance of her influence in a tweet:

"I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too."


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