Orange Is The New Black Transgender Actress Laverne Cox Covers Time Magazine

Posted on May 29 2014 - 12:26pm by Funky Dineva


Come through Laverne Cox! Yes Gawd Hunty! Y’all get you some of them size 17 feet! Mama is making her mark on the world. You know you are that chick when your face graces the cover of Time magazine. You better break down barriers and move mountains. I AM HERE FOR ALL OF THIS!

Check out the interview below:

Who was in your house growing up?

My twin brother and my mother, just the three of us. I never knew my father. He was never married to her mother, he was never a part of my life. It was just my mom, my brother and me.

And what were you like as a child?

I was really creative. I started to dance very young. I loved to dance. I begged my mother to put me into dance classes and finally, in third grade, she did. Tap and jazz but not ballet. She thought ballet was too gay … Throughout all of that, I was very feminine and I was really bullied, majorly bullied. There was this side of me that was this over-achiever that loved learning. But then I was also taunted at school. I was called names. I was made fun of.

Are there any particular instances of bullying that stand out in your memory?

There was this one instance in junior high when I had gotten off the bus and I was chased by a group of kids, which was, you know, pretty normal. They couldn’t really bully me on the bus because the bus driver could see in the rearview mirror, and that wasn’t allowed. But the second we got off the bus, they would try to beat me up. So I’d have to start running, immediately. So that day I was running for my life, basically, and four or five kids caught me. They were in the band. And I remember being held down and hit with drumsticks by these kids. And a parent saw it, the parent of some other student, and called the principal and the principal called my mother and my mother found out about it.

Otherwise you wouldn’t have told her?

No. And I remember being yelled at, because I didn’t tell her and then because I didn’t fight back. I never wanted to fight back. I was scared. I also thought I was above duking it out in the schoolyard with kids. I remember being blamed for having been attacked by a group of kids.

Is there a moment or time you remember first feeling like you might be transgender?

I tell this story about third grade. My third grade teacher called my mom and said ‘Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress.’ Up until that point I just thought that I was a girl and that there was no difference between girls and boys. I think in my imagination I thought that I would hit puberty and I would start turning into a girl.

How did your thinking change after that moment in third grade?

Going to a therapist and the fear of God being placed in me about ending up in New Orleans wearing a dress, that was a profoundly shaming moment for me. I associated it with being some sort of degenerate, with not being successful. My mother was a teacher. She was grooming my brother and me to be successful, accomplished people. I didn’t associate being trans, or wearing a dress, with that, or wanting to be a girl with being successful. So it’s something I just started to push down. I wanted to be famous, I wanted to perform. Those things I really, really wanted more than anything else.

Another part of your story you’ve talked about is your grandmother passing away, how you felt like she was looking down on you and disapproving. What happened in that moment?

I was in sixth grade and I was going through puberty. During puberty, the attraction for other boys got really strong. And I learned in church that was a sin. I imagined that my grandmother was looking down on me and that she knew what I was thinking, because she’s in heaven. I just imagined that I was disappointing her and it just was devastating for me. So I went to the medicine cabinet and got a bottle of pills. And took them. And swallowed them. And went to sleep, hoping not to wake up. And I did wake up, with a really bad stomachache. I don’t remember what the pills were. Whatever it was, I thought that they would kill me but they didn’t.

Did you talk to anybody else that night?

Nope. I was very isolated. I didn’t have anyone that I felt close to or that I could talk to. My brother and I were close-ish. But he was dealing with his own stuff. I didn’t really have friends until my junior year of high school. And my mother just had an inability to fully emotionally connect. I think a lot of it was just the stress of trying to take care of two kids by herself. My mom, a lot of her memories of those times, is just that she was really stressed out, trying to figure out how to put food on the table and clothes on our backs … What was the saving grace for me is that I had this great imagination and I was a good student and I loved to perform. The imagination that I used for that creative work was very life-sustaining for me and it continues to be.

How did things change as you got older?

I started trying to find a compromise in terms of gender in high school. I started embracing androgyny. I was just really scared and in a lot of denial. And I wanted to make everybody proud and happy and find a place for myself in the world. The funny thing is being in this androgynous space really wasn’t any better, in terms of perception or reception from people. It was part of my journey that got me to where I am now.

How do you think life might be different for trans kids who are in middle school or high school right now?

There’s a way to connect through the Internet that I didn’t have. So you can connect with people who are like you, who may be in another part of the country. That didn’t exist when I was a kid. I think there are more media representations that young trans people can look to and say, that’s me, in an affirming way. There’s just so many resources out there now that it makes you feel like you’re less alone and gives some sort of sense of, okay, this is who I am and this is what I’m going through, as opposed to being ‘What the f*** is wrong with me?’ That was what I grew up with.

Do you have any lingering feelings like that?

Oh yeah. 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. Some days I wake up and it’s like I’m eight years old again. And I’m scared for my life and I don’t know if I’m going to be beaten up that day. I don’t what mood my mom’s going to be in. That’s intense. But luckily I have tools. I have amazing therapy. And I have support now. I can reach out and talk to people.

The people out there in America who have no idea what being transgender means, what do they need to understand?

There’s not just one trans story. There’s not just one trans experience. And I think what they need to understand is that not everybody who is born feels that their gender identity is in alignment with what they’re assigned at birth, based on their genitalia. If someone needs to express their gender in a way that is different, that is okay, and they should not be denied healthcare. They should not be bullied. They don’t deserve to be victims of violence. … That’s what people need to understand, that it’s okay and that if you are uncomfortable with it, then you need to look at yourself.

Janet Mock [who wrote a best-selling memoir called Redefining Realness] has said that what’s happening in this moment is that trans people are taking more control over their narrative. Would you agree?

Absolutely. We have to listen to people. Folks want to believe that genitals and biology are like destiny! All these designations are based on a penis, however many inches that is, and then a vagina. And that’s supposed to say all these different things about who people are. When you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous. People need to be willing to let go of what they think they know about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Because that doesn’t necessarily mean anything inherently. Folks are just really uncomfortable with that sense of uncertainty, or that shift.

Why do you think that makes people so uncomfortable?

We live in an uncertain world and we want to believe that what a man is and what a woman is–I know that. And people don’t want to critically interrogate the world around them. Whenever I’m afraid of something or I’m threatened by something, it’s because it brings up some sort of insecurity in me. I think the reality is that most of us are insecure about our gender. They think, ‘Okay, if there’s this trans person over here, then what does that make me?’ We want to just coast along in a belief system that makes us feel secure, because we are a culture, as Brene Brown would say, that is intolerant to vulnerability. And if we are in a position where we have to begin to question this very basic idea of ‘A man has a penis and a woman has a vagina,’ then that’s a lot of vulnerability.

Telling everyone they have a sexual orientation seems simpler than telling everyone they have a gender identity.

There are so many terms. Facebook just gave us 56 custom genders. The biggest thing is that it’s about listening to individuals, not making assumptions … The reality is that lots of lived experience defies that trapped-in-the-wrong-body narrative. People are like, ‘I’m confused!’ And it’s like, ‘Calm down. Relax. It’s okay. Who is this individual right in front of you?’ … When it comes to terms, trans or gender-nonconforming are two great terms that can encompass a variety of different experiences.

Would you say you’re a happy person now?

Absolutely. Happiness is weird though. I’m so busy and I’m living my dream. I feel like myself and I feel pretty integrated, like the person that I am inside is who the world is seeing, which feels calming. But it’s not like ‘Oooooohhh, I a woman now and the world is amazing.’ There’s hardships. There are a lot of struggles still. I’m happy that I am myself and I couldn’t imagine my life if I were still in denial or lying, pretending to be a boy. That seems ridiculous to me. That seems crazy at this point … It’s nice to be done with transitioning.

Where is America when it comes to the acceptance of trans people?

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. Social media has been a huge part of it and the Internet has been a huge part of it, where we’re able to have a voice in a way that we haven’t been able to before. We’re being able to write our stories and we’re being able to talk back to the media … We are the reason. And we are setting the agenda in a different way.

One example of setting the agenda is the oft-referenced interview you did with Katie Couric earlier this year, when you explained why focusing on genitalia is misguided.

That felt like a moment when things really shifted. I felt really good about it and I remember thinking, As many people who have been on daytime TV, I’ve never heard someone push back and really talk about the homicide rate in the trans community and talk about the disproportionate discrimination and talk about someone like Islan Nettles, who lost her life just because she was walking down the street while trans. And to shift the narrative away from transition and surgery. I’ve never seen someone challenge that narrative on television before. But in the community, we’ve been talking about this and frustrated for years.

What is your response to people who have fought against trans-friendly laws and bills, like the new California law?

It’s scary to me. There’s a lot of fear mongering. I try to see their side of the story. They think that there are these people who were assigned this at birth, who are going to be infiltrating these spaces and, basically, our girls are going to be unsafe. It’s a thing that stigmatizes trans identities … These opponents don’t really understand who we are. They don’t really understand who trans people are when they’re opposing these bills. Sometimes we’re used as scapegoats too, to get other unfortunate agendas passed. That’s the cutthroat thing that’s going on. Some folks, they just don’t understand. And they need to get to know us as human beings. Others are just going to be opposed to us forever. But I do believe in the humanity of people and in people’s capacity to love and to change. God help me for that.

At the end of an event where you spoke in San Francisco, a woman brought down a six-year-old named Soleil who wrote you a note, asking what to do when bullied at school. And it was a very emotional, electric moment. What was that like up on stage?

That was a deep thing for me. What was really emotional for me is Soleil is six years old. I forget how young six years old is. Soleil is a baby and is being told that they can’t be themselves. I think about when I was that age and my gender was being policed and how deeply painful it was and how it made me feel like I was wrong, at my very core, that every instinct I had, to reach for this and be who I was, was wrong. And seeing Soleil, I just thought about how young six years old really is and how innocent six years old really is. And how we need to protect this child. And we need to protect our children from that and allow them to be themselves.


About the Author

53 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Kaykay May 31, 2014 at 11:44 pm - Reply

    ok. i have admittedly not read all of this but, i too wanted to put my young son in tap dance and jazz dance. then i saw the male instructors…all gay as helll. said nevermind. put him in music and drum lessons and art classes instead. i dont know why drama and theater and dance have to equal GAY for males but that’s just usually the case. guard your children

  2. Chandra McDaniel-Brown May 30, 2014 at 6:31 am - Reply

    I truly dislike people who judge others based on sexuality. You are not God, therefore what you think is irrelevant. No one sin is greater than another. So stop judging others and get YOUR life together and stop being so judgmental of others, gosh!

  3. Daija Martice Averyheart May 30, 2014 at 5:44 am - Reply

    Lmao! What´s even funnier is the lady that said it´s not cute to God is following a GAY man! Girl, get cho life. We were all Born in sin, sit down. AND if you wanna be technical, eating seafood is a sin, wearing certain materials in clothes is a sin. #SatDown

  4. Sonia Kewley May 30, 2014 at 5:07 am - Reply


  5. Catherine Hicks May 30, 2014 at 2:34 am - Reply

    Courtney Jones

  6. Pat Matthews May 30, 2014 at 1:26 am - Reply

    I liked her from that reality show Puffy had, and I am glad that she didn´t win; she wouldn´t be where she is today. You betta get those coins, and look good doing it.

  7. Sonia Nzongo May 30, 2014 at 12:11 am - Reply

    Woo she looks good on the cover!

  8. Anonymous May 29, 2014 at 7:55 pm - Reply


  9. Quincey Revels May 29, 2014 at 9:31 pm - Reply

    Miguel Perez

  10. Billie Blare May 29, 2014 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    And I do love how black people are sooooo hateful about this subject, not too long ago you were the subject of oppression and ridicule! Or did you forget!!? Oh Christians love to persecute! Wwjd? Not that!

  11. Billie Blare May 29, 2014 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    Yaaaas!!!! You better do it for the children!!!!

  12. Jennifer Robinson May 29, 2014 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Michele D

  13. stlbelle May 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Great article. I don’t watch OITNB. But her story is enlightening.

  14. Mocha B Williams May 29, 2014 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    June 6 oitnb let´s go

  15. Ada Marie Carter May 29, 2014 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    luv her june 6 cant come sooner

  16. Candi Powell May 29, 2014 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    Everybody always got something to say…get you some business

  17. Loving This Site May 29, 2014 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I love Orange is the New Black, can’t wait for it to return. That show is filled with so many good actors. Rather watch it twice than some of these reality tv shows

  18. Lisa James May 29, 2014 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    Alexei…only a woman is a woman at tha end of the day! #justthafacts

    • Anonymous May 29, 2014 at 3:45 pm - Reply

      I agree. People should feel comfortable in their own skin, but no re-assignment surgery can change what inside your body so even though things might be cut up, pulled and tucked; your body inside is still that of a male or female.

    • mammer May 30, 2014 at 11:50 pm - Reply

      Glad to know that your sex organs define you.

  19. La Shunrick Denise May 29, 2014 at 5:17 pm - Reply

    Can´t wait for the show to come back in a few weeks. I love her character.

  20. Bernadine Farrare May 29, 2014 at 5:11 pm - Reply

    Love that show, can´t wait till the new season starts!

  21. Ashley-Michelle Brock May 29, 2014 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    I LOVE HER!!!!!

  22. Virtuous Johnson May 29, 2014 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    This is not new, men are the original female actors. In Europe, women weren´t allowed to act, so the men played the role even down to kissing another man.

  23. Alexei Mariano Green May 29, 2014 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    A transgendered woman is still a woman. She is NOT a drag queen, so saying that she looks better than some women you know is actually an insult as opposed to a compliment. Knowledge is power!

  24. Jessie Merrill May 29, 2014 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    She is so ugly to me…

  25. Marc Hampton May 29, 2014 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Love her. Not just for bravery…but she´s a damn good actress as well.

  26. Dara Jones May 29, 2014 at 4:42 pm - Reply


    • Loving This Site May 29, 2014 at 2:20 pm - Reply

      June 6th

  27. Latrice Gregg May 29, 2014 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    I love that show and her.

  28. Andrea Littlejohn May 29, 2014 at 4:37 pm - Reply


  29. Dee Johnson May 29, 2014 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    That´s great!

  30. Tiara Graves May 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    I think it´s cause her twin brother plays the man part on the show. At first I thought it was her playing both roles so I assumed she was just acting transgender.

  31. Blessed Hands May 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    Im hooked on season 1…I love it

  32. Nina S. Kirk May 29, 2014 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    Yes she always said “I should get paid for this!”

  33. Mary Reyes May 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    I honestly didn´t realize that this actress was transgender – I never really bothered to wonder what her sexual orientation was, but I somehow assumed that the ROLE was transgender while the actress was not. My bad.

    • mammer May 30, 2014 at 11:52 pm - Reply

      Trans isn’t a sexual orientation and it’s quite disrespectful to mix the two.

  34. Sueann Santamaria May 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Love her

  35. Lee Y May 29, 2014 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Love her!

  36. Niya Coy Cook May 29, 2014 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    Love that show

  37. Sherri E Williams May 29, 2014 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Very enlightening article

  38. Meek Meek Monroe May 29, 2014 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    She looks great! Can´t wait for season 2

  39. Jazz Nicole May 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Can´t wait til June 6th either!

  40. Jazz Nicole May 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm - Reply

    Love it!

  41. Cordia Foster Miller May 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm - Reply

    Erica R.Lewis

  42. Sharron Brown May 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    She has a twin brother that starred in #oitnb when they showed her as the husband/father.

  43. Vanessa Ragler May 29, 2014 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Flawless, and she looks better in that dress than 99.99% of the women I know.

  44. Jack Skeleton May 29, 2014 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    ii know Carmen is saltyyyy

  45. Mish Smash May 29, 2014 at 3:40 pm - Reply


  46. Shannon Strawther May 29, 2014 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Dewit bitch!!!

  47. Kabreisha Smith May 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm - Reply

    Love her!!!

  48. Jasmine EndorphinJunkie Sanchez May 29, 2014 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Love love love her!!

  49. Ivy Love May 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    Good for her!

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