Transgender Performers To Watch In 2015

Caitlyn Jenner's hotly anticipated docu-series I Am Cait premieres on E! July 26. Laverne Cox remains a fan favorite on Orange Is the New Black. Transparent is raking in awards left and right, and has been renewed for a third season before we've even caught glimpse of the second. The transgender community is enjoying some long overdue attention in the media. And despite some controversy over the casting of cisgender actors for trans roles, a number of transgender performers — both men and women, newcomers and veterans — are poised to break out.

The new indie Tangerine (now in limited release) stars two trans actresses, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor, as prostitutes searching for a pimp who's done one of them wrong. A hit at Sundance, the movie is just one in a number of current projects featuring transgender actors.

It's an exciting time. Click ahead to see who to watch out for in 2015.
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Photo: MediaPunch/Rex USA.
Mya Taylor

Tangerine director Sean Baker met his 24-year-old breakout star hanging outside the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Now, she's winning raves for her first-ever foray into acting, which sees her playing a transgender sex worker in Hollywood.

"There’s something about her," Baker told of his initial meeting with the actress, whose next project is a lead role in a 2016 film short. "First off, just the physicality, but also, there’s this aura, there’s something, that quality that stars have of drawing me in."
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Photo: Rex USA.
Michelle Hendley

Here's a Cinderella story with a twist. Hendley was discovered on YouTube, then cast as the lead in Eric Schaeffer's 2014 indie, Boy Meets Girl. Her role as Ricky, a transgender women fielding flirtations from both male and female friends, required the rising star to undergo a daring nude scene.

"I was told, 'It’s non negotiable,'" the Missouri native told Out of baring her body. "And I was okay with it. It’s pretty much just me showing the world what a trans body is. A lot of people are afraid of what they don’t understand. This says, 'Hey, this is a trans body. It’s real and it’s feminine and it’s not attacking anyone’s masculinity. Here’s who I am.'"
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Photo: Courtesy Amazon.
Ian Harvie

The stand-up comedian turned actor is finally getting wide recognition for his work in Amazon's Transparent. If you love his work as flannel-wearing Dale, check out his comedy sketches. Better yet, catch one of his shows: He's on tour now.
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Photo: Courtesy Amazon.
Alexandra Billings

Like Transparent co-star Ian Harvie, Billings is just now becoming known to mainstream audiences. The cabaret star actually has the distinction of being the first openly trans woman to play a transgender character on TV.
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Photo: Rex USA.
Jamie Clayton

Having worked as a makeup artist and co-host on TRANSform Me and appeared in shows like Hung, Clayton is now poised for her big break. It's come in the form of a leading role in Netflix's Sense8, co-created by trans filmmaker Lana Wachowski.

"I'm incredibly blessed that I'm on a show playing a trans character that has been written by a trans woman," Clayton told People.

"My hope is the audience, as they're watching with all the characters, that they just sort of forget the color of their skin and who they're going to bed with and all of those things and just say, 'Wow, these people, they're helping each other, and they have these struggles that I've been through,' or, 'I know someone that has been through that,' and that they can relate to that in a certain way."
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Photo: ABC Family.
Tom Phelan

According to his Tumblr, Phelan is "just your friendly neighborhood trans kid." The actor plays Cole on ABC Family's The Fosters, which has shown the character battling transphobic behavior.

In an interview with GLAAD, Phelan shared that he's confident his role will help shift perspectives on how the trans community is regarded.

"I think the audience should just take away that transgender people exist, we're here, and we are not going away," he said. "And I really would love for people to kind of take away a sense that they need to educate themselves on these issues and be more respectful of the community."
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Photo: Courtesy Duplass Brothers Productions.
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez

Like her co-star Mya Taylor, first-time actress Rodriguez has drawn acclaim for her turn in Tangerine. The transgender female plays Sin-Dee Rella, an L.A. prostitute who's fresh out of prison.
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Photo: Courtesy CBS.
Scott Turner Schofield

Meet the first openly transgender star in daytime TV. Schofield, a transgender male, joined the cast of The Bold and the Beautiful as part of the soap opera's groundbreaking trans storyline. The actor plays Nick, an old friend of Maya, who was recently revealed to be a transgender female (and is played by a cisgender woman).
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Photo: Courtesy Killer Films/Moxie Pictures/El Peligro.
The Cast Of Mala Mala

There are simply too many fascinating people to name in this gripping documentary (now in limited release) about the trans community in Puerto Rico. The scenes can be both insightful (cabaret performer Alberic Prados explains why he'll never physically be a woman, despite his outward appearance), and harrowing (a trans sex worker talks about the dangers of the job).
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