When TV writer Ryan Murphy accepted the Carol Burnett TV Achievement Award at the Golden Globes last week, he didn’t make the moment about himself. His shoutout to Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, star of his hit show POSE, and last year’s winner of Best Actress in a Drama Series, made headlines.
Rodriguez is the first trans actress ever to win a Golden Globe, but because last year’s ceremony was untelevised, she never got her proper on-stage moment. Because of that, Murphy insisted she receive a standing ovation for her historic win during his acceptance speech.
“My mission was to take the invisible, the unloved, and make them the heroes I long to see but never did in pop culture,” Murphy said in his speech.
The moment was a victory for trans visibility and “meant the world” to Rodriguez. “I’m rocking with Ryan for the rest of my life,” she said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
From 2021 to 2022, of the 775 series regular characters tallied on 97 primetime scripted shows on the broadcast networks, 20 of them were portrayed by trans women, according to the GLAAD 2021-2022 Where We Are on TV Report. In the year prior, of 773 series regular characters, 15 were trans women.
“How do we reckon with the paradoxes associated with a politics of representation in an era of promoting that #representationmatters amidst escalating social and political backlash from extremists?” said Brandy Monk-Payton, communications and media professor at Fordham University, who questions the idea of trans visibility beyond the scope of success.
Monk-Payton said that accolades allow the entertainment industry to be self-congratulatory, noting, “In the future, we should hope to see even more roles for trans women and, crucially, discussion of these actresses and their characters that are not focused on the spectacle of identity, but rather highlight the quotidian realities of experience that emanate from their performances and touch viewers.”
Shows like Orange Is The New Black, Transparent, and POSE set precedence for portrayals of trans women, while also breaking grounds for their precedence in incorporating trans talent behind the cameras, on the producing teams, and in the writing rooms.
According to a 2021 report on GLAAD, no major studios depicted a trans character in movies for the fourth year in a row. In a cultural climate where transness is strongly tethered to real violence and discrimination, the progress made for trans actors—on screen and on stage—could turn the tides for the way trans communities are seen and treated.
It’s unarguable that people in power in the entertainment industry should take note from Murphy’s call to action in giving trans women the spotlight. So in that spirit, here are 12 more trans women making strides in entertainment right now.
Kerri Colby & Kornbread of RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 14
Although the season broke record with the highest number of openly trans women competing on Drag Race, Kerri Colby and Kornbread were two of the five who had already been open about their trans identity by the season premiere, on January 7, 2022.
Inventing Anna’s Laverne Cox
February was a strong month for Laverne Cox, with Netflix’s hit show Inventing Anna premiering on the 11th. The actor and producer portrayed Kacy Duke, a real life celebrity fitness trainer adjacent to Anna Delvey’s circle.
Alexandra Grey in musical production of The Life
From March 16-20, in 2022, the New York City Center’s Encores! Season brought renowned musical The Life back on stage, directed by Billy Porter with Alexandra Grey to revamp the role of Queen.
L Morgan Lee’s Tony Nomination for A Strange Loop
Announced on May 9, 2022, the Tony Awards nominated Broadway star L Morgan Lee for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical, making her the first ever trans actress to be nominated for a Tony.
Peppermint’s cameo in Fire Island
Released on June 3, 2022, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10′s trans runner-up Peppermint made her cameo on Joel Kim Booster’s Fire Island. “So we brought sandwiches to the room...”
Eva Reign in Anything’s Possible
On July 22, 2022, Billy Porter’s directorial debut film Anything’s Possible starred Eva Reign as Kelsa, an openly trans senior in high school, navigating her newfound dating life while grappling with her future and just being a teenager.
Quei Tann in They/Them
With its release on July 24, 2022, John Logan’s feature directorial debut horror film They/Them about an LGBTQ conversion camp cast Quei Tann as one of the scream queen leads.
Chicago on Broadway, casting Angelica Ross
On August 4th, Broadway’s hit musical Chicago announced the groundbreaking casting of Angelica Ross. Ross portrayed Roxie Hart, and became the first trans actress to land a major role on the show.
Trace Lysette in indie film Monica
On September 3, 2022, Trace Lysette’s film Monica premiered at the Venice Film Festival. She became the first trans person to lead in a movie premiering at the festival. After the screening of Monica, Lysette received over 11 minutes of standing ovation from the theater.
Jamie Clayton’s Pinhead in Hellraiser
The iconic horror character Pinhead returned to the screen on September 28, 2022, with the remake of Hellraiser on Hulu. Hellraiser’s original Pinhead, Doug Bradley, had only praises for Clayton’s performance.
TS Madison in Bros
A gay romcom movie released outside of Pride season, Billie Eichner’s Bros came out on September 30, 2022. Full of renowned queer and trans icons, the All Stars cast included TS Madison, who fully stayed stealing the scene.