Laverne Cox on fighting transphobia and re-framing trans identities

Orange Is The New Black actress Laverne Cox on the fight for transgender rights.
Laverne Cox plays Sophia Berset in the Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black. (Eric Leibowitz/Netflix)

Jian speaks with actress and advocate Laverne Cox, of the smash hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black. Cox has come to public attention for her striking role as Sophia, a transgender inmate in a women's prison, and has herself become a spokesperson and educator on trans issues in the mainstream.

Cox focuses on the plight of trans women of colour in particular -- who she says are still living in a state of emergency, despite the fact that trans people in general are gaining more visibility on their own terms. 

"We need to begin to re-frame trans identity to acknowledge our humanity, and that we are not inherently deceiving people and that we do not deserve violence simply for being who we are," she says, adding that Orange Is The New Black has helped her secure a more prominent platform from which to raise awareness and inspire change.

"Through my art, my work as an artist, I want to make things better for the people that follow me." 

Transgender tipping point? 

Cox made history this month as the first trans woman to make the cover of TIME Magazine. The publication dubbed her the face of "The Transgender Tipping Point: America's Next Civil Rights Frontier". 

  Although Cox tells Jian she's happy to have been featured, the cover story is a small victory within a larger battle.   
  "Just because a black trans woman is on the cover of TIME Magazine -- it does not mean that trans people are not still fighting for their lives, fighting for dignity, are not still being discriminated against in housing, employment and healthcare, are not still being murdered on the streets." 

As for whether she thinks we've reached a tipping point in the fight for transgender rights, Cox says: "If we are, I think it is because of visibility. Because more and more trans folks are coming forward and having the courage to live visibly, as ourselves.


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