Laverne Cox speaks about equality, struggles

Activist and star of “Orange is the New Black” Laverne Cox spoke on Oct. 8 in the O’Rena. She offered her own experiences for the audience to think over and talked about how intersectionality shaped her life and experiences.

“Trans is beautiful…and I’m a proud African American transgender woman,” Cox said.

Much of Cox’s message centered on the transgender community in America right now. She stated that this year alone, around 20 transgender women of color have been killed, and that over 50 percent of all homicides against the LGBT community were cases where the victim was a trans woman of color.

Cox talked about her own “gender trouble,” a concept coined by Judith Butler in her book of the same name, who ironically was speaking in the Oakland Center during Cox’s lecture. Cox went through her life expressing her gender identity in ways that were considered atypical. She knew she was a woman, despite not being assigned that gender at birth.

She paused about 45 minutes into her speech to collect herself, the content she was bringing to the audience was something personal and emotional to her, especially after talking about the 20 plus women of color who were killed for expressing their gender identity.

“I know I could be those women,” Cox said as she reflected on the weight of these killings.

Cox also spoke about how as a child, she didn’t understand the idea that boys and girls were different. To her, she always knew she wasn’t a “boy,” and therefore, didn’t understand that there was a difference between genders.

However, gaining the confidence to exist in a violent world was hard for her. She told the audience that when she was in sixth grade, she attempted suicide.

“I didn’t associate transgender with success,” she said. It wasn’t until later in her narrative that Cox said, “I had accepted my womanhood finally, and the world didn’t reflect this back to me,” she said.

Cox was born and raised in Alabama as a very active member of her church, which had a profound impact on her throughout her life and career. She had an identical twin brother, and despite the bullying she faced in school nearly every day, she went on to become a dance and acting major, leading to her role in the Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black.”

Despite the hardships in her life, she made a difference in the lives of others through her activism. Corey Maison, a young girl who recently rose to virtual fame after a video of her receiving her first dosage of hormone therapy went viral, was invited by OU to hear Cox speak.

“If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t know what transgender was. She’s an inspiration,” Maison said.

Cox has started a hashtag online, #TransIsBeautiful, about transgender individuals to share pictures and stories of themselves to tell their stories in a similar way as Cox told hers.