You probably know her as “Sophia Burset” on the Netflix Original Orange Is The New Black, but this star has a voice that certainly cannot be contained by any prison cell.
Photo: Allie Smith on Unsplash
Actress and advocate Laverne Cox has made great strides for the LGBTQ community and means business when it comes to speaking up for equal rights. Most recently, she was seen giving a speech at the third annual Women’s March in Los Angeles. In her speech, she reminded girls and women alike that “being polite is not the same thing as being quiet.”
Here, Cox takes a moment to give a voice to the many women who feel like their own may be silenced. She invites them all to stand up and follow in her footsteps.
Cox has also redefined what it means to be represented as a trans women in mainstream media. "I played hookers a lot,” the actress stated about her past roles. “That was the scope of what was available for trans actors.” Not only has she torn down that idea, but her role in Orange Is The New Black made her the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show.
But the firsts don’t stop there.
Cox has also become the first openly trans women to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy, to appear on broadcast TV as a series regular transgender character, and to be chosen as the cover image of both Cosmopolitan and Time Magazine.
Activism from positive LGBTQ advocates is incredibly important in order to stop perpetuating stereotypes, to reframe how this demographic is seen in the media, and to speak out against injustices that the community faces, especially violent ones.
At the end of 2018, statistics from the FBI reported a steep increase in hate crimes. They revealed an alarming 17% increase from the previous year.
In 2017, 26 transgender people were victims of homicide in the United States. Nearly all victims were transgender women of color.
Cox has often times turned to social media as a means to speak out against the murders of transgender women of color. Towards the end of 2018, she sent out a tweet that called out the police force in Jacksonville, Florida, claiming that she was “angered, saddened, and enraged” by the fact that they do not seem to have policies in place to respect the gender identities of victims.
Not only does she tackle the issues of hate crimes, but she also raises awareness for other transgender issues, such as mental health, bullying, and overall areas of human rights violations.
She has been able to successfully bring attention to inequality, and does so in a way that aims to paint a new portrait of what it means to identify as a trans women. Her platform has brought hope to an underrepresented community, and reminds us all of that change still needs to be made.
She recognizes that even the community itself is not perfect; there is bias within itself. Cox, knowing from personal experience, said that “the LGBTQ community has not always been the most welcoming to trans people and people of color."
When it comes to inclusivity, it is time to bring together all marginalized groups of people, regardless of color, and Cox aims to help us see the urgency of that.
When it comes to changemakers, Laverne Cox is certainly a name for the history books.
Caroline is an undergraduate student at Worcester State University. When she is not writing, she also runs a photography business specializing in portrait, wedding, and boudoir photography. She aims to use both writing and photography to empower women and encourage them to find their inner voice and confidence.