May 29, 2014 by Hayley Miller, Digital Media Associate
Laverne Cox, a star on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, is on the cover of TIME magazine this week. In the cover story, “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s next civil rights frontier,” Cox describes the many hardships she has had to deal with as transgender and how the LGBT movement has changed.
Cox grew up in Mobile, Alabama, where she was bullied and harassed for appearing feminine. Cox explained, “I absolutely have a lot of work that I have to do around shame, lingering shame from childhood, and childhood trauma. It’s a struggle every day, to stay present, not to become that, you know, eight year old who was bullied and chased home from school.” Cox eventually came out as transgender while living in New York City and took up acting.
Since the premiere of the show, Cox has emerged as a public leader and face of the transgender movement and recognizes that things are rapidly changing. “We are in a place now where more and more trans people want to come forward and say ‘This is who I am.’ And more trans people are willing to tell their stories. More of us are living visibly and pursuing our dreams visibly, so people can say, ‘Oh yeah, I know someone who is trans.’ When people have points of reference that are humanizing, that demystifies difference.” Cox has been traveling the country to make the case for equal rights for all LGBT people. Cox also has developed a stump speech titled “Ain’t I A Woman?” and will be hosting a new documentary airing on MTV and Logo.
There are several struggles facing the transgender community. In the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 47 percent of respondents reported experiencing a negative job outcome because they were transgender or gender non-conforming. Fourteen states have a law that addresses hate or bias crimes based, but do not address sexual orientation or gender identity. Consistent research finds that gay and transgender youth are over-represented among homeless youth, comprising anywhere between 20 and 39 percent of the total homeless youth population.
The journey toward living openly and authentically looks different for everyone, and given the levels of violence and discrimination faced by transgender and gender nonconforming people, revealing and expressing one’s gender identity can be a complex and difficult process. For help along your personal journey, please check out HRC Foundation's Transgender Visibility Guide. This resource is designed to help individuals and their loved ones through the coming out process in realistic and practical terms, providing guidance to meet the challenges and opportunities that living as authentically as possible can offer to each of us.