“I’m a person of color, working-class, born to a single mother, but I stand before you tonight an artist, an actress, and a sister and a daughter, and I believe that it is important to name the multiple parts of my identity because I am not just one thing, and neither are you.’” – Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox, who is most commonly known for her role in Netflix’s original series, Orange is the New Black, came back to UNT’s rescheduled date to give her story and speak to our campus. I’m really glad she did, because I was so disappointed when her original speech date was cancelled due to the snow and the cancellation of classes. Laverne Cox came and spoke to us about how important it is to accept one other, not to give up, and strive to continue and accomplish great things.
Laverne Cox is a transgender who came to share her journey with students at UNT, and I think her message spread to everyone in their own unique way. What I personally got out of it, was how strong family love can be despite the challenges put through the relationships, and how important it is to remain nonjudgmental and loving towards every individual that passes you by on the sidewalk.
What really stood out about Laverne’s stories was the time period she lost her grandmother, and how desperate she was to try and please her because she felt she was watching from heaven and knew every thought Laverne had in the back of her mind. Those thoughts included Laverne believing she was a girl, and being attracted to men, and all her frustrations. But Laverne was never angry towards her grandmother for not being accepting, nor her mother when she was resilient to Laverne’s want for change. I know it would have pained me to think my family could not accept me for the person I knew I was, and she reminded me the strength and love a child can have despite the unacceptable of family members. I think it was because of this love that Laverne’s mother eventually came around, slowly but surely, and began to see her son for who she truly was.
“The therapist asked me if I knew the difference between a boy and a girl. And in my infinite wisdom as a third-grader, because third graders are so wise, I said, ‘There is no difference.’” – Laverne Cox
The bullying and challenges Laverne faced unfortunately did not surprise me, but I wish I lived in a world where they did. I wish it was not common to hear a young homosexual or transgender child was being bullied by children because they were “acting out of the norm.” It got me thinking about what we’ve learned from this Race, Gender and the Media class. The roles that men were supposed to play were clearly being defied by Laverne, causing a lot of the boys from her school to bully her when she was young. If boys didn’t grow up believing they were supposed to act a certain way, a way so identifiably different from girls, I wonder if she would have been bullied as badly. Boys are taught to be strong, not show emotion, athletic, win the girl over demonstrating a lot of these characteristics, and that’s just what Laverne tried to do in order to please her mother for a while. She joined sports, but at the same time was allowed to dance and do what she really wanted to do on the side and in her free time. I can’t imagine how torn her heart must have been by what it wanted to do, and what society expected her to do.
To not judge others based on society’s per-determined expectations of who they are supposed to be, how to act, is inhumane. We are not in any position to judge another person, especially enough to make it known. Laverne was yelled at on the streets, by people pointing out she was a man, and some men repulsed after they realized she was transgender after they cat-called. Lots of issues here, like cat-calling in general, and then judging based on appearances without understanding another individuals life and story. Laverne couldn’t stress enough how important it is to accept and love one another no matter what, because it could really be the difference and smile a person might need that day. I really enjoyed her speech and love listening to an individual’s story and what they want to leave in the world, for Laverne, it’s putting on a good show for the viewers and becoming an example for other transgenders, especially in the African American community, that possibilities are endless.
“I would never be so arrogant to think that someone should model their after me. But the idea of possibility…the idea that I get to live my dreams out in public, hopefully will to other folks that it’s possible. So I prefer the term ‘possibility model’ to ‘role model’.’” – Laverne Cox