30 Black Trans Men, Trans-masc and Non-binary Trailblazers You Should Know

As Trans people, our history is often unarchived or difficult to discover. This is especially true for Black Trans folks and even more so for Black Trans men, Trans masc and Non-binary folx. We wanted to compile a short list of some of the people who have made meaningful contributions and who have built and sustained our communities. From artists and writers to activists and athletes, we want to recognize, honor, and celebrate the achievements made specifically by Black Transgender and Non-binary individuals. So without further ado and in no particular order, here’s a list of some of the folks - historical and modern day - who have made or are making history. 

 

 

1. Yance Ford

Yance Ford is the groundbreaking filmmaker behind the powerful documentary "Strong Island." This Oscar-nominated film tells the deeply personal story of Ford's brother's murder and the impact it had on his family. "Strong Island" won several awards, including the Special Jury Award for Intuitive Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival. A trailblazer in the documentary film industry, Ford has made waves with his his dedication to shining a light on important social issues.


 

 

2. Ellia Green

Ellia Green is a professional rugby player and advocate. He is one of small number of Olympic athletes to have come out as transgender. Formerly a key member of the Australian Women's sevens team, Green helped lead the team to numerous victories, including a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. In addition to his success on the field, Green has been a vocal advocate for gender equality in sport. 


 

 

3. Tiq Milan

Tiq Milan is a writer, speaker, and media strategist. He is currently Senior Media Strategist of National News for Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Milan is known for his work as an advocate for LGBTQ rights and has been featured in various media outlets such as BET, Rolling Stone and The New York Times. In addition to his work at GLAAD, Milan is also a former co-host of the podcast "Masc Undone," which discussed issues related to fatherhood and trans masculinities.

In 2016, Milan, along with ex-wife Kim Katrin, gave a TED Talk, telling a beautiful and empowering story of Black queer love. 

You can keep up with Milan by checking out his website: www.tiqmilan.com


 

 

4. J Mase III

J Mase III is a poet, writer, speaker, and activist known for his advocacy work and moving poetry. His book The Black Trans Prayer Book, co-written with Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi won a Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction. J Mase III’s work has been featured on MSNBC, the New York Times, Huffington Post, and more. Check out his recent book “White Folks Be Trippin': An Ethnography Through Poetry & Prose. Or pick up a copy of And Then I Got Fired: One Transqueer’s Reflections on Grief, Unemployment & Inappropriate Jokes About Death.


 

 

5. C. Riley Snorton

C. Riley Snorton is an American academic and author. He is currently an Associate Professor of African American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Chicago. Snorton is known for his work on Black studies, Transgender studies, and the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. He is the author of "Nobody is Supposed to Know: Black Sexuality on the Down Low" and "Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity." His book "Black on Both Sides" is a seminal work and explores the intersection of trans identity, race, and slavery. Snorton's research and writing have made a significant contribution to the field of Gender and Sexuality Studies and have received widespread recognition and acclaim.


 

 

6. Patricio “Cacahuate” Manuel

Patricio Manuel is an American professional boxer. In 2018, he became the first transgender boxer in the history of the United States to have a professional fight. Manuel is a five-time USA national amateur boxing champion. Manuel made his professional debut in December 2018, where he took on Hugo Aguilar and won.


 

 

7. Pauli Murray

Pauli Murray was a civil rights and feminist activist, lawyer, and author known for their racial and gender equality advocacy. They co-founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) and worked with the NAACP. Murray's writings had a significant impact on the civil rights and feminist movements. Murray passed away in 1985 and was posthumously honored with various awards and recognitions for their contributions to the fight for equality.

To learn more about Murray's life and work, check out the documentary "My Name is Pauli Murray." This film explores Murray's activism, their contributions to the civil rights and feminist movements, and their personal gender journey.


 

 

8. Rev. Louis Mitchell

The Rev. Louis Mitchell is a pioneering "intentional man," elder, and advocate, who served as the Executive Director for Transfaith. Louis has been involved in the fight for health, respect and self-determination since the late 1980s, with deep engagement in political, mental health, recovery, and black church contexts.

To learn more about Rev. Louis Mitchell, you can listen to his oral history here.


 

 

9. Willmer “Little Ax” Broadnax

Willmer "Little Ax" Broadnax was a gospel singer with a beautiful voice. This talented musician was born in 1935 in Houston, Texas, and grew up singing in church with his elder brother. His professional music career began in the 1950s, performing with various gospel acts. He is best known for his work with The Dells, with whom he recorded and toured for over 50 years.

Tragically, Broadnax was kill by his lover in 2007 at the age of 72, leaving behind a legacy as a musician and vocalist.

For more on Broadnax, check out Morgan M. Page's "One From the Vaults" episode below.


 

 

10. Kye Allums

Kye Allums is a former college basketball player who gained attention in 2010 for being the first openly transgender athlete to compete in Division I NCAA sports. His brave move to come out as trans helped bring visibility to trans athletes at the college level. Since coming out, Allums has toured the country advocating for trans inclusion in sport and encouraging other trans athletes to make their voices heard. He is also the creator of Project I Am Enough - a storytelling platform that aims to promote self-love, acceptance, and respect for individuals of all gender identities.


 

 

11. Carter Brown

Carter Brown

 

Carter Brown founded Black Transmen, Inc. (BTMI) to advocate for the empowerment of transgender people through community building and organizing. BTMI endeavors to address the disparities faced by Black trans people. This org later gave birth to the Black Trans Advocacy Coalition (BTAC). BTAC is a trans-led non-profit organization based in peace building, community education, public policy initiatives, empowerment programs, and direct services. Brown's most recent accomplishments include testifying before the US Congress in support of the Equality Act, an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections for transgender people.

He is also founder of the National Black Trans Advocacy Conference & Awards Gala, a conference that is held annually in Texas.

 

 

12. Devin-Norelle

Devin-Norelle is a nonbinary model, advocate, and writer who uses ze/zim pronouns. Ze has been a regular contributing writer to several national publications including Teen Voguethem, Allure and Out magazine. As a model, Devin-Norelle has walked in a number of New York Fashion Week shows including Chromat and Stuzo. Ze also modeled for 2019 Bonobos’ Pride Campaign. As an advocate, Devon-Norrelle has used zis platform to bring attention to a wide variety of trans-related issues. Ze has also pushed for more diverse trans and nonbinary visibility in media.

Finally, ze is the creator of the original "Trans is Beautiful" tee.


 

 

13. Kylar Broadus

Kylar William Broadus is an American attorney, entrepreneur, and trans rights activist. He founded the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) in 2010. In 2012, he became the first trans person to testify in front of the United States Senate when he spoke in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Today, Broadus works as a consultant with a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Snag your very own Kylar Broadus tee, as part of Transguy Supply's Trans Trailblazer apparel series. 


 

 

14. Dr. Kortney Zeigler

Dr. Kortney Zeigler is a writer, artist, and technologist who is known for his work at the intersection of art, activism, and education. He is an award-winning entrepreneur who has built a number of solution-driven products focused on providing support for the Black diaspora. Founder and COO of Trans*H$CK, his org tackles the issues of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness often experienced by Trans and Non-binary people. 

Dr. Zeigler is also an accomplished filmmaker whose documentary film "Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen" was released in 2008. Today, Dr. Zeigler is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Merced, where he teaches courses on race and technology.


 

 

15. Brian Michael Smith

Brian Michael Smith is an actor who is making waves in the entertainment industry with his powerful performances and advocacy for trans representation in media. One of his most notable roles to date is as Toine Wilkins, a transgender police officer in Ava DuVernay's Queen Sugar. This role helped launch Smith into a series of high-profile roles, including political strategist Pierce Williams in The L Word: Generation Q and firefighter Paul Strickland in 9-1-1: Lone Star. His work on 9-1-1: Lone Star made him the first out Black Trans man to have a series regular role on network television. Smith has also appeared in shows such as Chicago P.D., Girls, and Homeland.


 

 

16. Issac Fitzsimmons

In the last handful of years, we’ve seen a veritable explosion of queer and Trans Young Adult (YA) fiction novels. Still, young Trans people are sorely lacking when it comes to representation, and that goes double for Black Trans and Non-binary youth. Enter Isaac Fitzsimons. Fitzsimmons is an author, speaker, and activist who has dedicated his career to promoting social justice and equality. His debut novel, The Passing Playbook was a 2022 Lambda Literary Award Finalist and one of our favorite Trans YA novels to date.

 

 

17. Kacen Callender

Speaking of YA fiction, author Kacen Callender is another writer using their talents to voice the experiences of Black Trans and Non-binary folks. Kacen Callender is an award-winning Caribbean-American author. They are known for their work exploring themes of gender identity, race, and mental health. Their book "Felix Ever After" is about a transgender high school student named Felix Love. In the book, Love attempts to navigate his identity and find love while also dealing with bullying from classmates. It is a powerful and moving story about one young person's journey to find himself.


 

 

18. Marli Washington

Marli Washington is an entrepreneur, BIPOC trans man, and founder/CEO of gc2b. One of the world's premier binder companies, gc2b is committed to creating high-quality products that meet the needs of the transgender community. gc2b has received widespread praise for their commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility, and has become a leading provider of chest binders for Transgender and Non-binary people around the world.


 

 

19. Marquise Vilson

Marquise Vilson has achieved success in a variety of fields. Born and raised in the Bronx, Vilson served in the military before pursuing a career in acting and writing. He has appeared in numerous television shows and films, and is perhaps best known for his roles in "The Blacklist" and "Power." In addition to his acting career, Vilson was featured in the 2005 documentary "The Aggressives." This doc explores the subculture of Aggressives within the LGBTQ+ community. Vilson is also an advocate for social justice and uses his platform to raise awareness about issues such as racism and LGBTQ+ rights.


 

 

20. Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke Emezi is a Nigerian-born writer and artist. Emezi identifies as trans, non-binary, and also an ogbanjeAn ogbanje is a term from the traditional beliefs of the Igbo people of Nigeria, referring to a child who is believed to be reincarnated multiple times, but always dies young. In an article in New York Magazine's, The Cut, Emezi talks about their experience with top surgery and the interwoven relationship of their transness and their identity as an ogbanje.

Emezi is the author of several critically acclaimed books, including "Pet," "Freshwater" and "The Death of Vivek Oji," and has been recognized as a pioneering and influential voice in the literary world.

To learn more about Emezi and their full body of work, check out their website: https://www.akwaeke.com/home


 

 

21. Prof. Sir Zanele Muholi

Sir Zanele Muholi is a South African photographer, visual activist, and artist who is known for their powerful and thought-provoking images that explore issues of race, gender, and sexuality. Muholi is a visual activist who works to document and preserve the history and experiences of black LGBTQ+ individuals in South Africa and around the world. Muholi's work has been exhibited in galleries and museums across the globe, and has received widespread recognition and acclaim. In addition to their photographic work, Muholi is also the founder of Inkanyiso, a media collective that works to promote social justice and human rights.


 

  

 

22. Tashan Lovemore

Tashan Lovemore is a trans activist, model, and poet who has dedicated himself to being a beacon of positivity for other trans folks. Shortly after beginning his transition in 2017, Lovemore co-founded the now defunct Black Trans TV, a platform that aimed to promote self-love and self-care for individuals of all identities. More recently, Tashan hosts "Let's Start from the Top" - a series about gender-affirming top surgeries, which you can find on his Instagam.

Hear more of Lovemore's story by listening to his interview with NYC's Trans Oral History Project.


 

 

23. Jevon Martin

Jevon Martin has dedicated over 25 years to advocating for the TLGBQI+ community, particularly in addressing homelessness. He is the CEO of Princess Janae Place, a referral organization for TLGBQI+ services, and has made strides in improving legislation for marriage equality and supporting homeless youth in New York. In addition to his work with Princess Janae Place, Jevon has also been a conductor for the MTA, a peer educator, and HIV test counselor. He has received numerous awards for his activism, including the Man of the Year, Octavia St Laurent Trans Activist Award, and the Marsha P. Johnson Award. 

More about him: https://jevonmartin.com/


 

 

24. Braxton Fleming

Braxton “Brax” Fleming is an entrepreneur and founder of Stealth Bros and Co - a company dedicated to creating beautiful dopp kits and cases to carry your HRT gear. In Sept 2022, Fleming became the first openly transgender man to pitch on the TV show Shark Tank, bringing national attention to his brand and landing a deal with “sharks” Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban.

As an entrepreneur, Fleming has been a lighthouse for other trans entrepreneurs, using his platform to uplift trans voices and experiences.


 

 

25. Texas Isaiah

Texas Isaiah is an award-winning, first-generation visual narrator based in Los Angeles. He is committed to caring for and protecting sitters and believes in the healing power of photography. In 2020, Isaiah became the first Trans photographer to photograph a Vogue edition cover and a TIME cover. His work has been exhibited at various galleries and he has received numerous grants. He is also a Clio Awards Silver winner for visual curation on the Being Seen Podcast and a 2020-2021 artist in residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

More about his work: https://www.texasisaiah.com


 

 

26. Black Cracker

Black Cracker is a musician, visual artist and director known for his blend of hip-hop, electronic, and punk influences. He been releasing music since the early 2000s, has several critically acclaimed albums, and EPs and has toured internationally, performing at major music festivals.

More about Black Cracker: http://www.blckcrckr.com/


 

 

27. Cameron Awkward-Rich

Cameron Awkward-Rich is a writer, poet, and assistant professor of African American studies and Creative Writing at Williams College. He is the author of the poetry collection "Sympathetic Little Monster" and the nonfiction book "Dispatch." Awkward-Rich's work often explores themes of race, gender, and sexuality, and he is known for his use of unconventional forms and language.

Learn more about Cameron Awkward-Rich here: https://www.cawkwardrich.com/


 

 

28. Tyler Ford

Tyler Ford is a writer, activist, actor, and public speaker, who identifies as agender and advocates for Transgender and Non-binary individuals. In 2012, Ford made an appearance as the first transgender contestant on "The Glee Project 2." In 2017, along with Meredith Talusan and James Clarizio, Ford was a founding editor of them magazine

Read more about his gender journey in his piece in The Guardian, "My Life Without Gender: strangers are desperate to know what genitalia I have."


 

 

29. Myles Brady Davis

Myles Brady Davis and his wife Precious are a veritable T4T power couple. The duo first gained attention as part of Miley Cyrus' #Instapride campaign. The couple was then featured in the TLC show "Say Yes to the Dress." They have used their visibility for advocacy and to shine a light on the power of Black Trans on Trans love.

The couple's pregnancy journey was featured on TLC's Extraordinary People in an episode called "My Pregnant Husband." And in 2020, they successfully advocated for each parent to be gendered according to their identity (not their role in the birth) on their child's birth certificate—a first for the state of Illinois.

Myles identifies as Two-Spirit, uses they/them pronouns and is the Director of Communications at Equality Illinois


 

 

30. PALMER

Palmer is a singer, photographer, and tattoo artists based in Dallas, TX. He was raised in a strict Christian home and was not exposed to much popular culture. Despite this, Palmer taught himself how to play the piano, guitar, drums, bass, violin, and trumpet. Listen to this talented musician's song "Shut Up" on Spotify or check out more of his work on his Instagram and YouTube channel.



 

 

Did we miss one of your favorite Black Trans Trailblazers? Drop a comment below to let the people know and help preserve our histories.

 

 

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