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Trans Day of Visibility: 13 Modern Day Trailblazers

Published On: March 31, 2021
Written By: Bianca Sutton

March 31 marks International Transgender Day of Visibility. A day that not only raises awareness to the ongoing discrimination faced by transgender people, but a day that also celebrates transgender people across the world, acknowledging their victories and their contributions to society.

We’ve put together a list of just some of the amazing people who have blazed a trail and inspired us all.

Dr. Carys Massarella is the lead physician for the Transgender Health Program at Quest Community Health Centre in St. Catharines, Ontario and an emergency physician at St. Jospeh’s Healthcare in Hamiltion.

Hailed by many as a “trans-warrior physician,” it is Dr. Carys Massarella’s first hand experience of the transition journey that sets her apart from other doctors in the same field. Armed with both the education and the experience, Dr. Carys Massarella has been a strong advocate for better health care for the transgender community and has pathed the way for better public education.

Dr. Massarella has appeared on numerous TV shows discussing transgender topics, has delivered a TEDx talk on the depathologization of transgender identity and most recently featured in My Trans Journey, a docu-series on OUTtv.

Barres was a neurobiologist at Stanford University, who was best known for his work on glial cells and the vital role they played in the brain. His groundbreaking research led to numerous discoveries about the structure and functionality of the brain. In 2008 he became the Chair of the Neurobiology Department at Stanford University School of Medicine and in 2013 became the first openly transgender scientist in the National Academy of Sciences.

Having experienced gender discrimination earlier in his career and childhood, he was a strong ally of women and worked tirelessly to dispel gender biases in science. In a 2006 interview Barres stated, “I’ve lived in the shoes of a woman and I’ve lived in the shoes of a man. It’s caused me to reflect on the barriers women face.

Barres past away in December 2017 from pancreatic cancer. His memoir, The Autobiography of a Transgender Scientist was published posthumously.

Now retired, Mary Ann Horton was a pioneer in the field of science. She gained her Ph.D in computer science from the University of Berkley in 1981. It was during her time at Berkley that Horton created the uuencode, the early development of adding attachments to emails. Horton was also part of the development of Usenet, a virtual bulletin board that many have dubbed the very first form of social media.

After graduating, Mary Ann worked for Bell Labs and played a major part in encouraging companies incorporate language around identity and gender expression into their equal opportunity policies, as well to provide transgender health benefits. All of this, before she had even transitioned herself. In 2001 Horton was awarded a Trailblazer Award from Out & Equal for “significant contribution to advancing workplace equality.”

In 208 Patricio Manuel made history in the boxing ring when he became the first transgender boxer to compete in a professional fight. If that wasn’t enough, he made history again the same night – by winning the fight. Not done with filling the history books with his name, he went on to become the face for boxing brand Everlast, a role previously held by some of the most iconic legends in boxing.


Jin Xing who has been nicknamed by many as the “Oprah of China,” has had one of the most varied career trajectories, from soldier to ballerina to TV host.

As a teenager, Xing joined the military, rising through the ranks. She learnt to dance at the age of nine when she started dancing with a People’s Liberation Army troupe and later headed to New York to train in modern dance. Xing then moved to Shanghai and opened her own dance troupe, the Jin Xing Dance Theatre. During this time she also adopted three children, who she raised alone up until she married in 2005.

Xing added TV personality to her roster after making numerous appearances as a judge on China’s So You Think You Can Dance where she quickly became a fan favourite. This soon led to her own show, The Jin Xing Show, which brought in an estimated 100 million viewers each week.

Mianne Bagger is a professional golfer from Denmark. She made history in 2004 when she became the first openly transgender woman to play in a golf tournament when she played at the Women’s Australian Open. It didn’t stop there, she then became the first trans woman to qualify for the Ladies European Tour in 2004 and the first high-profile trans woman to qualify for a professional sports tour since Renee Richards joined the Women’s Tennis Association tour in the 70s. 

In addition to her sporting career, Bagger’s effort to have gender policies removed from sport has resulted in numerous professional golf organizations making amendments. She has campaigned tirelessly for more inclusion within sport, urging sporting organizations to understand and accept “gender variance and human diversity.”

Pauline Park has been a fierce advocate for transgender rights for years. In 1997 she co-founded the Queens Pride House, a centre for the LGBTQ+ communities of Queens. A year later, she co-founded the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), the first statewide transgender advocacy organization in New York.

Park served as part of the work group which led the campaign for the transgender rights law enacted by the New York City Council. She also negotiated the inclusion of gender identity and expression in the Dignity For All Students Act (DASA), a safe schools bill enacted by the New York State Legislature in 2010.

This is only a small portion of the incredible work Park has done for the community.

Charlie Martin is a British racing car driver who utilizes her role as prominent racing driver to bring awareness to LGBTQ+ issues.

Martin’s career in endurance racing began in 2006, where she took part in the Hillclimb Leaders Championship, racing a Peugeot 205. Since then she has gone on to compete in numerous races across the world. 

Martin has campaigned for the normalization of LGBTQ+ representation in motorsports and actively discusses such topics on her YouTube Channel, Girl For All Seasons. She was announced as Stonewall’s first Sports Ambassador and was the first-ever racing driver to join Athlete Ally’s ambassador programme. In 2019, Martin was announced as an ambassador for Racing Pride, an initiative founded in partnership with Stonewall UK that promotes LGBTQ+ inclusivity within motorsports.

Kali Subramaniama, who hails from Tamil Nadu in India is a woman of many talents. Her resume includes transgender rights activist, actress, artist, writer, entrepreneur… and the list goes on. And to top it off, she has two masters degrees.

It was during her postgraduate studies that Subramaniama got more involved in activism. She started a monthly magazine in the Tamil language called Sahodari (translates to sister) aimed towards transgender women. From there Subramaniama has been a loud voice of empowerment for the transgender community in India. She was well-known for campaigning the Supreme Court of India’s judgment legalizing transgender identity. When a well-known matrimonial website declined to matrimonial listing of a transgender woman, Subramaniama proved she was a force to be reckoned with by launching India’s first matrimonial website for transgender people.

As well as being the first transgender woman in India to take on a lead role in a motion picture, Subramaniama has also created numerous documentary films on LGBTQ+ rights.

Rachel Levine is breaking barriers in the world of politics after Joe Biden recently announced her as the Assistant Secretary for Health. In a bipartisan confirmation vote, Levine is the first openly transgender person to hold an office that requires Senate confirmation.

As Joe Biden put it, “she is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”

Levine trained as a paediatrician and worked at Penn State Hershey Medical Centre. During her time here she created Penn State Hershey Medical Centre’s adolescent medicine division and eating disorders clinic. Up until recently, she served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, where she led the states public health response to COVID.

Chris Mosier is a hall of fame triathlete, and All-American duathlete, a 2x National Champion, and a 6-time member of Team USA. In 2015 Mosier was the first openly transgender man to represent the USA in an international competition, which led to a change on the International Olympic Committee policy around transgender athletes. Mosier is also the first transgender athlete to compete in Olympic Trials for any sport in a category different than their sex assigned at birth.

In 2013, Mosier set up the site transathelete.com aimed at students, athletes, coaches and administrators, offering resources and information about trans inclusion in athletics.

In 2016, Mosier was sponsored by Nike, featuring in his own Nike commercial.

CeCe McDonald is a transgender activist who received international recognition when she survived a white supremacist and transphobic attack, only to later receive a second-degree manslaughter conviction and a 41 month prison sentence in a male prison for simply defending herself.

Since leaving prison in 2014, McDonald has been a fierce voice for greater movement in trans liberation and for the dismantlement of the prison system. She regularly speaks at colleges and universities and works with numerous organizations within the LGBTQ+ community where she talks about the implications in society of being both black and trans.

McDonald co-founded the Black Excellence Collective and Black Excellence Tour with her best friend Joshua Allen which focuses on conversations around mass incarceration, sexuality, and violence.

Sara Davis Buechner is an American concert pianist and educator. Prior to her transition, Buechner was a prominent classical pianist, who has attended the Julliard School as a pupil of Czech pianist Rudolf Firkusny, won numerous notable awards and received rave reviews in the likes of the New York Times. Beuchner had been used to doing up to 50 concerts a year, however, after her transition she was unable to get any bookings, instead averaging four a year. Buechner had previously taught as an adjunct professor, and after her transition applied for full-time professorship only to hear behind her back, “Is it safe to leave him in a room with undergrads?”

Years later, Buechner ran into an old school friend, Carrie Feiner, who helped build up her booking schedule again. In 2003 she was hired by the University of British Columbia and in 2008 received tenure. She began to play more concerts, each getting bigger in audience size and now averages 60 concerts a year.

Sara Davis Buechner story is the feature of an OUTspoken documentary on OUTtvGo.