Laverne Cox: A Modern Day Hero
The awards season earlier this year was great, wasn’t it? Funny female hosts, twitter-destructive selfies and that Adele Dazeem moment…
Yet, although a lot of us revelled in the fun and frivolities, this was unfortunately not the case for everyone.
When Jared Leto received an Oscar for his role in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ as a transgender woman named Rayon, for some it was a congratulated and deserved award for his hard work – for others, it was a slap in the face of the transgender community. As a cis-gendered, white male, Leto representing the transgender community is about as good as a standing on a lego brick; its ridiculous and makes you wonder why you bothered to get out of bed this morning.
As much as I like Jared Leto as an artist, I can’t help but feel frustrated that not only does his role perpetuate the idea that trans women are simply men in drag, but he failed to even give the trans community a mention during his acceptance speech. It honestly begs the question, ‘Why are we praising this cis guy for his ‘brave’ role as a trans person when trans people continue to be vilified and abused in their day to day lives?’
361 offences in England and Wales were related to gender-identity hate crime this year alone. Gender identity as a motivation for hate crime has only been properly recorded by police in the last three years, and is often not reported properly, if at all, as three quarters of LGBT victims don’t report their experience to the police.
So, what does this all have to do with Laverne Cox? (yeah, remember that? the title? it’s been a bit of a rant, I realise, but this is important I assure you)
As a trans woman of colour, who comes from a working class, single mother background, Laverne became an advocate that the LGBT community embraced with open arms. Cox began her career in reality television, but has been thrust into fame via her role as Sophia Burset on the hugely popular Netflix series ‘Orange is the New Black’ (which is phenomenal by the way, but thats a story for a different day). Through the her role series, she has been able to provide a voice for trans people. In an interview with Entertainment Monthly, she explained, ‘If the character is written like the way Sophia is written, as a multi-dimensional character who the audience can really empathize with, all of the sudden they’re empathizing with a real Trans person. And for Trans folks out there, who need to see representations of people who are like them and of their experiences, that’s when it becomes really important.’
As part of her ever-exemplary advocacy, Laverne has spoke out about her personal experiences of racism, transphobia and misogyny as part of a Keppler Speakers convention last year and given a speech at Creating Change for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force this January. Back in May, Cox became the first ever trans person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine. The feedback has been overwhelming, and signifies a vast and progressive change for the trans community.
Oh, and if you were wondering, Laverne Cox has now been officially nominated for Emmy for her role in Orange is the New Black.
Finally, a nomination we can all get on board with.