Laverne Cox

#TectonicWoman number two is Laverne Cox, actress, producer, and advocate for transgender rights. Laverne uses her role as Sophie Burset, a transgender prison inmate on the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black as a platform to discuss trans identity. As a transgender woman herself, Laverne talks about what her character has meant for trans people in North America. She says, “Sophie is written as a multi-dimensional character who the audience can really empathize with—all of the 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.”

Laverne uses her public platform to discuss injustices faced by the queer and trans communities in the U.S.. In response to a question about how her body changed over the course of her male to female transition, she said, “There’s a preoccupation about transitions and about surgery, which objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to deal with the real, lived experience. The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often, we’re targets of violence, we experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the rate of the national average. For trans women of colour, it’s four times the national average. The homicide rate in the LGBTQ community is highest amongst trans women and when we focus on transition, we don’t actually talk about those things.”

Laverne is a stellar example of someone who is using her art and her presence in pop-culture’s spotlight to help break down the stigma surrounding trans identity and also help viewers develop a vocabulary with which to address questions of sexual and gender identity, presently lacking from everyday language.

To hear more from her, watch the interviews below or subscribe to Netflix to check out Orange is the New Black (I hear good things…).