In celebration of LGBT History Month, Touchstone is profiling a different LGBT celebrity each week in the month of February. The chosen celebrity this week is Laverne Cox: twin; actress, television producer and LGBT advocate.
Born in Mobile, Alabama, Laverne was bullied constantly as a child. She describes how she attempted suicide after realising, aged 11, that she was attracted to boys, but knew this would be seen as sinful by her family. Laverne talks about still occasionally experiencing the same feelings of shame that she did when she was a child and began to feel that she was different.
Laverne is best known for her portrayal of Sophia Burset on the Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black, for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2014 – becoming the first openly transgender person to be nominated in the acting category, and the first to be nominated in any category since composer/musician Angela Morley in 1990.
On June 26, 2015 Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender person to have a wax figure of herself at Madame Tussauds.
In addition to her work as an entertainer, Laverne Cox speaks and writes about transgender rights and other current affairs in a variety of media outlets and schools. Her role in Orange Is the New Black provides her a platform to speak on the rights of trans people. In a recent interview, she stated that her character Sophia, “is written as a multi-dimensional character who the audience can really empathize with – all of a 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.”
On people’s obsession with the details of her surgery Cox goes on to say, “I do feel there is a preoccupation with that. The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people. And then we don’t get to really deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often we are targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the national average; if you are a trans person of colour, that rate is four times the national average. The homicide rate is highest among trans women. If we focus on transition, we don’t actually get to talk about those things”
Laverne Cox is the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine.