Article by Rachel Delgrego
On April 20, SPA’s Distinguished Speaker Series sponsored speaker Laverne Cox, star of the popular Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” and an activist for trans rights. Cox spoke to about 300 people filling the Eisenhower Auditorium, advocating for intersectional awareness and speaking about her own experience as a transgender woman of color.
Laverne both began and ended her talk with statistics about the violence people that identify as transgender face – 77 percent of trans students experience harassment or bullying, the unemployment rate is higher for transgender individuals, and the homicide rate in the LGBTQA community is highest for trans women of color. Also worth mentioning was a topic of contention, the HB2 bathroom bill, that Cox highly denounced in her speech. She also spoke of a lot of feminist work that guided her through her transition – the “Ain’t I Woman” speech, the work of Bell Hooks, and the work of Judith Butler, a renowned feminist philosopher.
Laverne Cox’s own experience was important to note as well. While still reminding us of how far she’s gotten with a smile and a flip of her hair, she reminded us of her struggle from the early age of her elementary school years, being thrown into therapy and threatened to be injected with testosterone to function more “male-like.” While most of her story was kept light, with a joke about her salvation army clothes being turned to “salvation armani clothes” with her design skills, she did touch on some pivotal and difficult times in her life. She even took us through an attempted suicide attempt of hers, reminding the audience that 44 percent of transgender individuals attempt suicide.
At the end of the speech, after a well deserved standing ovation, Cox did a Q&A session with the audience, answering questions from trans students and aiding them in their transition. While her beauty and success radiated from the stage, she still stayed completely down to earth and welcoming to inclusiveness and the importance of acceptance.
Feature Image: Emmy-nominated actress and Emmy‑winning producer, Laverne Cox will speak in Eisenhower Auditorium on April 20. Image Credit: Penn State News