Transgender people are already everywhere, even if their lives go unnoticed. But in 2014, transgender people truly were everywhere—from the red carpet to the runway, from TV to D.C., and from the cover of Time magazine to the pages of a New York Times bestselling memoir. Visibility is no substitute for change, but 2014 bore witness to plenty of the latter as well, with a series of legal victories that will make it easier for transgender people to find employment, update their legal documents and receive healthcare. Although there’s still a long way to go before anti-transgender violence becomes a thing of the past, 2014 is likely to be remembered as an important step toward a more inclusive future.
Rolling Stone has selected 11 of the most notable moments, trends and controversies from this year’s transgender tipping point.
1) 2014 was a landmark year for transgender people on TV.
Last week, Amazon’s freshman dramedy Transparent was honored with two Golden Globe nominations: for Best Comedy and Best Actor in a Comedy (Jeffrey Tambor). Tambor, in particular, looks likely to repeat at the Emmys, just a year after Orange is the New Black‘s Laverne Cox became the first transgender actor ever nominated for an award at the ceremony. Transparent, created by Jill Soloway (of Six Feet Under and United States of Tara), has garnered acclaim for its humanistic, layered portrayal of a late-life transitioner, Maura, and her decades-long struggle to come out to her very complicated family. The show is partially based on Soloway’s own experiences after her parent came out as transgender in 2011.
Transparent was also joined by Cox’s own TV show, The T-Word, which debuted on MTV in October. The T-Word follows seven transgender youths (between the ages of 12 and 24) to tell their stories. “For many of us, the ‘T’ in LGBT means more than transgender, it also means truth,” said Cox. “The cast members in this documentary are fearlessly living their truths and in sharing their stories will send the message to other trans youth that it’s OK to be who you are.”
2) Against Me!’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues was a watershed moment for trans musicians and for rock music at large.
In 2012, Laura Jane Grace took a huge step forward when, in an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone, she revealed her decision to transition. But this January’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues felt like an even greater achievement. Against Me!’s first post-transition LP is more than a coming-out story: It’s 28 tightly coiled minutes of punk-rock bliss just as politically charged as the music on which the band made its name. Tracks like “True Trans Soul Rebel” and “FUCKMYLIFE666” find both Grace and her band excitingly negotiating a new identity for themselves, soaring to new creative heights in the process. The result is Rolling Stone‘s 15th best album of 2014, and one made even more poignant and powerful when filtered through Grace’s True Trans reality docu-series, which debuted on AOL in October. The 10 eight-minute long episodes feature Grace sounding off on everything from parenting and relationships to finding acceptance.
In addition to the impact made by Against Me!’s singer-guitarist, the punk and metal scenes at large are having their own trans renaissance. Earlier this month, grindcore act Cretin released its first album, Stranger, in eight years, and the first since guitarist and vocalist Marissa Martinez began transitioning in 2007. In August, long-running hardcore/metal band Life of Agony re-formed to play their first shows with transgender singer Mina Caputo since she came out in 2011. One of the group’s founding members, Caputo has also made her name (formerly Keith) via an eclectic solo career, and last year, she toured with Grace, who has cited the musician as an “inspiration.”
3) Laverne Cox continued to break the glass ceiling for transgender actresses.
In addition to her historic Emmy nomination, Laverne Cox was everywhere in 2014, from appearing in the second season of Netflix’s cultural phenomenon, Orange Is the New Black to guesting on MTV’s Faking It and having a cameo in a John Legend video. (It’s a big step up from bit parts in the Law and Order franchise.) No moment, however, felt quite as earth-shattering as Cox’s Time magazine cover, in which even the headline, “The Transgender Tipping Point,” testified to the history of the moment. The issue, which hit stands in June, made Cox the first transgender person to ever appear on the magazine’s cover.
However, visibility came with its downsides. In January, Cox appeared on Katie Couric’s daytime show, only to be subjected to intrusive and inappropriate questions about her body. The actress, though, was having none of it: She shut down Couric, while taking advantage of a teachable moment. Said Cox, “The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people, and then we don’t get to really deal with the real lived experiences.” She would later return to the program in June on a much happier note.
4) Janet Mock put Piers Morgan in his place and was elsewhere awesome.
Laverne Cox wasn’t the only transgender woman of color with media woes this year. In February, author and advocate Janet Mock appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight to promote her memoir, Redefining Realness. It started out pretty badly and only got worse from there. In his opening, Morgan informed Mock, “Had I not known anything about your story, I would have had absolutely not a clue that you had ever been a boy.” A graphic on the screen gracelessly reinforced that point, reminding viewers that Mock “was a boy until age 18.” In a tweet after the show, Janet Mock called the show out for “sensationalizing her life and misgendering trans women.” Mock later clarified that she wasn’t born a boy; she was “born a baby.”
In addition to helping educate the public on transgender issues, Mock’s ill-fated Piers Morgan segment illustrated the importance of transgender people telling their own stories. After the interview, Mock’s memoir debuted at Number 19 on New York Times‘ nonfiction bestsellers list. A former editor at People magazine, Janet Mock was also named a contributing editor at Marie Claire in June, while continuing to focus on her considerable activism work, including the Girls Like Us campaign. This November, Mock launched a Trans Book Drive on IndieGogo that’s nearly doubled its goal of $5,000, with a week left. The drive aims to send reading materials and care packages to trans inmates.