People make history, and one of the major ways of writing history is through telling the story of a person’s life. Especially for the history of groups of people who have had to hide or who have been marginalized in one way or another, biography can make history seem real and immediate. We make the leap to imagine someone else’s life experience.

The following biographies were written by a group of undergraduates at the University of Illinois Chicago who took a class on Transgender History from Catherine Jacquet. They represent a range of life experiences, across class, race, and gender. All but one are drawn from the history of the U.S., where the price of openly challenging gender boundaries has ordinarily been very high. These life stories reveal a range of ways that individuals fought for the right to be themselves. They’re inspiring, surprising, and full of the unexpected.

OutHistory is eager to have more life stories to add to these profiles. Contact us if you have others to offer: