Five ground-breaking trans icons from history you’ve probably never heard of

A graphic with pictures of trans historical figures with pink and blue and yellow graphic designs in the background

Any queer person who has a social media account has undoubtedly encountered the tired, bigoted rhetoric that being trans is a modern “trend”. The claim has been a favourite refrain sung by conservative voices – from Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy to celebrities such as veteran shock rocker Alice Cooper

But the truth is that gender-diverse people have been with us, in countries from India to Australia and the Americas, throughout history.

However, there is a great deal about trans lives that hasn’t been told, is misrepresented or hidden from the public. Additionally, it can be tricky to apply modern words about gender to figures who lived before the term transgender entered the public lexicon and who didn’t have the option of sharing their pronouns. 

Just as there is no single trans experience or journey, these five individuals prove there was no one way to be gender diverse in the past – and no handbook for approaching trans history. 

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