Janet Mock’s advocacy and activism. Laverne Cox’s rise to fame in Orange Is the New Black. Even Caitlyn Jenner’s recent Vanity Fair cover. All eyes are on these trailblazing transgender women who have helped to highlight the people and issues surrounding the trans community. But what about the often less visible faces of transgender men of color?
Here are just nine of the many trans men of color who are advocates, writers, ministers, scholars and entertainers making a lasting impact in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer space.
1. Kye Allums
The Minnesota native made headlines when he came out in 2010 while playing on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University. Allums became the first openly transgender Division I athlete in NCAA history. After graduation, he decided to focus on LGBT activism and has spoken at more than 32 colleges and universities about the trans* athlete experience. He has also written his first book, Who Am I? Allums identifies as a queer, fluid trans* and prefers the pronouns “he” or “him” and “they” or “them.”
2. The Rev. Lawrence T. Richardson
Richardson grew up in St. Paul, Minn., and felt compelled to serve in the ministry from the time he was a youth. After spending years trying to fit in at churches, he saw a commercial featuring a community of diverse people being rejected from the church. The commercial ended with “God doesn’t reject people and neither do we.” Richardson became an ordained minister and joined the United Church of Christ community. In 2010 he medically transitioned from female to male and now identifies as a transgender, queer-identified person. He says, “I used to be a miserable person … physically sick and depressed all the time; and if I can be transformed and made whole by the love of God, anyone can be!”
3. Kylar Broadus
Broadus, who transitioned more than 20 years ago, is an attorney who focuses on LGBT law and transgender rights. He is the founder and director of the Trans People of Color Coalition, the only national organization dedicated to the civil rights of transgender people of color. The former Lincoln University of Missouri professor is also co-founder of the think tank the Transgender Law and Policy Institute. The Missouri native is the first transgender American to testify before the U.S. Senate in favor of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. During his 2012 speech he said, “For me, the physical transition was about letting the outer world know my internal sense of self, of who really was inside this body. … My transition was a matter of living the truth and sharing that truth for the first time in my life.”
4. Kai M. Green
Green is a writer, poet, scholar and filmmaker born in Oakland, Calif., who is dedicated to raising consciousness around self-care, self-love, sexual and emotional health, sexual and state violence, healthy masculinities, and black feminism. Green’s short film It Gets Messy in Here examines the lives of transgender men and masculine-identified women of color and their bathroom experiences. Green is a professor and postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University in sexuality studies and African-American studies.
5. Victor J. Mukasa
Mukasa is a human rights defender from Uganda who now lives in the U.S. Co-founder of Sexual Minorities Uganda and executive director of Kuchu Diaspora Alliance-USA, he was forced to seek asylum in the U.S. after fighting for LGBT rights. He was the first activist to address the United Nations about transgender issues in Africa. As part of the “Proudly African & Transgender: Self-Portraits in Writing” exhibition, he wrote, “For most Ugandans, any person that expresses ‘him/herself’ as the opposite sex is a homosexual and so this exposes transgender people to all the mistreatment that they would love to give a homosexual. All transgender people are seen as the obvious homosexuals. Therefore, on top of all the transphobia, there is homophobia even if you are not gay.”
6. Jayden H.C. Sampson
Originally from Illinois, Sampson is a public defender in Philadelphia. The attorney has sat on the board of directors of the Mazzoni Center and the Attic Youth Center and is secretary of the board of directors of Gender Reel, a national film and performing-arts festival highlighting the experiences and identities of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Sampson also helps organize the annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which focuses on educating and empowering trans* individuals, allies and health care providers on issues of health and well-being.
7. Kortney Ryan Ziegler
An award-winning filmmaker and blogger and the first person to hold a Ph.D. in African-American studies from Northwestern University, Ziegler wrote and directed the 2008 feature-length documentary Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen, exploring the transgender man-of-color experience. Ziegler, who was named to The Root 100 in 2013, told the Huffington Post, “I’ve realized that the plight of being a black man in America is not what I understood it to be when I was not living as a black man in America. What I mean by that is just it’s really sad the way people fear me. I’m very hyper-visible.”
8. The Rev. Louis Mitchell
Mitchell was the first “out” transgender-identified board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Raised in a black Baptist church in Los Angeles, he now lives in Massachusetts with his wife and young daughter and serves as the engagement coordinator for the Transfaith/Interfaith Working Group. Mitchell is also featured in the documentary Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen.
9. J Mase III
Based in the Bronx, N.Y., the trans-queer author, performer and teaching poet is the creator of the national performance event Cupid Ain’t @#$%!: An Anti-Valentine’s Day Poetry Movement. J Mase is also the founder of awQward, a first-of-its-kind talent agency run by trans people that uplifts the work of trans and queer people of color. He began coming out as trans at the age of 19. He told the New York Times, “Back then, I believed in this very romantic myth of a cohesive LGBTQ community. … What I discovered was that the reality of being a trans person of color is often talked about within the LGBTQ community, but not actually addressed.” With the creation of awQward, he hopes that “[trans people of color] artists are able to preserve our history, culture and make a livable wage while doing what we love.”
Nicole L. Cvetnic is The Root’s multimedia editor and producer.