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Transgender and nonbinary heroes serving our larger society
Around the world, transgender and nonbinary heroes have been life savers and Good Samaritans to their non-transgender neighbors, even risking their lives for the wellbeing of larger society
Meet amazing community-oriented people who happen to be transgender and nonbinary. Depending on where you live, you may have benefited from the courage, hard work and kindness of these individuals.
Jo Acker, a military veteran and security guard, sacrificed her life to protect mall goers from a shooter in Boise
In October 2021, Jo Acker, a transwoman working security at a mall in Idaho, confronted a gunman who was a known troublemaker at the mall. A former U.S. army forward observer with a martial arts background, Acker was killed during the confrontation.
“Confronting someone whom she viewed to be a threat to others or a bully was entirely within her character even prior to enlisting,” said Tiffany Luna, Jo Acker’s oldest sister.
“We have had people messaging us to tell us how she helped them, how she saved them, and we are so thankful for the love and support we are receiving.”
Labannya Hijra, a transfemme heroine, risked her life to capture armed killers in Dhaka
On March 30 2015, Labannya Hijra, a transgender heroine in Bangaldesh, caught two terrorists who had murdered a progressive blogger Oyasiqur Rhaman. She physically restrained the armed assassins long enough for police to catch up and arrest them.
Oyasiqur Rhaman was only one in a series of bloggers murdered by assassins. The public assassination of another blogger Avijit Roy happened just a month before. At that time, onlookers did not intervene, and witnesses were unhelpful to law enforcement.
Labannya Hijra’s actions went above and beyond what had come to be expected of the general public. After Rhaman’s murder, when other members of the public were afraid to chase the killers, Labannya Hijra, a transfeminine nonbinary heroine, stepped up, risking her life for justice and community.
Martine Rothblatt, tech entrepreneur and transgender rights advocate, developed medical innovations that saved the lives of tens of thousands
Martine Rothblatt, who held both a J.D. and an MBA from UCLA, helped launched multiple satellite communication companies, including SiriusXM Satellite Radio, in the 1980s and the early 1990s.
In 1994, in the same year that Rothblatt underwent gender affirming surgery, the youngest of her 4 children was diagnosed with incurable pulmonary hypertension and predicted to live only for a few more years. To save her daughter’s life, Rothblatt took a crash course in biology and created the PPH Cure Foundation to support research into a cure. In 1996, she founded United Therapeutics which went on to develop multiple pulmonary hypertension medications which are used by more than 30,000 patients annually.
Thanks to these and other medications, Rothblatt’s daughter Jenesis is still alive today. Faced with the possibility that Jenesis might need a lung transplant in the future, Martine Rothblatt developed the world’s first Electrically Powered Semi-Autonomous Rotorcraft for Organ Delivery in 2016. A United Therapeutics subsidiary executed the world’s first drone delivery of donor lungs in 2021. Rothblatt’s company continues to do the lifesaving work of researching how to increase the supply of transplantable organs, whether by increasing the viability of donor organs, or by manufacturing organs.
During the pandemic lockdown, the transgender community in Chennai provided meals for the needy and houseless
In 2020, the 2000-strong transgender community in Chennai organized resources to not only take care of themselves but also to provide for the houseless and those in need in the larger community.
Dr. Alan L. Hart, a tuberculosis expert who was a transgender man, spearheaded a nationwide health campaign that saved many lives in the United States
Dr. Alan L Hart was Director of Radiology at Tacoma General Hospital in 1928, a time when tuberculosis was one of the biggest health threats in the U.S. This doctor who was a transgender man played a key role in reducing the death toll from tuberculosis in the 1920s and 1930s. He documented the critical role that quarantine played in stopping the spread of TB.
Dr. Alan Hart pioneered the use of X-rays to detect early infections in asymptomatic patients. A nationally recognized expert, Dr. Hart took his TB expertise from Washington to Idaho, where he worked as Tuberculosis Control Officer and then to Connecticut, where he directed hospitalization and rehabilitation for the state’s Tuberculosis Commission.
Dr. Alan Hart traveled around the U.S. raising money to support financially challenged TB patients and fund research. Dr. Hart’s legacy continues beyond his death. When his widow passed away in 1982, she left most of her estate to the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon in honor of her late husband.
Learn more at
Fuimaono Karl Pulotu-Endemann, a fa’afafine nurse and academic, developed the Fonofale model accepted by the Mental Health Commission of New Zealand as the standard for Pacific mental health treatment
In 1984, Samoa-born psychiatric nurse and health consultant Fuimaono Pulotu-Endemann developed a holistic mental health model integrating the values and beliefs of Samoans, Cook Islanders, Tongans, Niueans, Tokelauns and Fijians. His Fonofale model of Pacific mental health set the standard for the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission of New Zealand.
In 2001, Puloto-Endemann, one of the first openly fa’afafine employees in the New Zealand public service, was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for his contribution to public health.
Pauli Murray, a legal scholar who was non-binary, laid the legal foundation for racial and gender equality protections for U.S. residents
Pauli Murray was born in 1910. They shortened their name to the gender-neutral Pauli in 1928. In the 1930s, they sought gender-transition treatments but were denied gender-affirming care. In 1940, Pauli and their girlfriend were arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus, 15 years before Rosa Parks’ similar act of civil disobedience.
After completing postgraduate studies at UC Berkeley School of Law, Pauli Murray wrote the influential and widely distributed book “States’ Laws on Race and Color”, which Thurgood Marshall used as the “bible” of 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case, the landmark court case that ruled racial segregation in schools to be unconstitutional.
In 1966, Pauli Murray co-founded the National Organization for Women with other organizers. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued the landmark Reed vs. Reed case in 1971, she credited Pauli Murray with the arguments that secured gender equality under the 14th Amendment.
Learn more about Pauli Murray’s lifetime of groundbreaking work at:
Transfemme train riders helped pregnant woman deliver baby on train in India
In 2015, transgender “angels” made the news on multiple Indian news channels for helping a pregnant woman deliver her baby on a train from Hyderabad to Bhopal.
(V6 News Telugu)
Frances Thompson, transgender survivor of the Memphis Massacre, testified before U.S. Congress to advance the civil rights of newly emancipated Black people
One year after the Civil War, Frances Thompson and Lucy Smith were working as seamstresses in Memphis when a gang of cisgender white men invaded their home during the Memphis Massacre of 1866. The white men committed atrocities against both women. Many other women in Memphis’ Black communities were also subjected to atrocities during the 3 days when white cisgender people went on a rampage of murder, arson and looting.
Ms. Thompson and Ms. Smith courageously gave testimony about their rape before a congressional committee. Historian Channing Joseph described Thompson as “one of the linchpins in getting the political will together to pass legislation to protect the civil rights of newly emancipated Black people and also to bring political will behind Reconstruction after the Civil War.”
In the 10 years that followed, Thompson faced harassment and character assassination from racist opponents of Reconstruction. When Thompson was outed as transgender, racists tried to use her transgender identity to discredit her testimony and that of other Black rape survivors of the Memphis Massacre.
Learn more at
Zhang Yujing, 15th century transgender martial artist, risked their life to lobby successfully for better housing conditions for their hometown
In 1405, transmasculine martial arts instructor and National Academy student Zhang Yujing had an audience with Emperor Yongle of China in which they spoke of their desire to improve the living conditions of their people back home. Due to Zhang’s advocacy in the capital, local officials in Zhang’s hometown replaced the residents’ thatched roofs with tiled roofs, significantly reducing fire risk. A monument honoring Zhang Yujing’s contributions was built in their home province of Gansu in 2007. Learn more here.
Four nonbinary transfeminine Tahitian doctors sailed more than 2600 miles to provide healthcare for the people of Hawaii
Centuries-old oral history passed down by the noble families of Waikiki told of Kapaemahu, Kapuni, Kinohi and Kahaloa, four mahu – gifted people of dual male and female spirit – who traveled to Waikiki from their home on the island of Raiatea. People throughout the Hawaiian Islands came to love these healers for their miraculous cures and gentle manner. Their legacy was honored with a monument of 4 stones still visible in Waikiki today. Learn more at Legend – The Healer Stones of Kapaemahu.
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