Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Laverne Cox Just Turned a Transphobic Attack Into a Moment of Strength

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, while taking a casual stroll through L.A.’s Griffith Park with a male friend, Laverne Cox was targeted by a stranger over her gender identity. After aggressively asking Cox the time, the stranger turned to her friend—named only as “Joel” by Cox—and asked, “Guy or girl?” When Joel replied with a swift “Fuck off,” a scuffle broke out between him and the stranger. Before Cox had time to finish dialing 911, Joel was able to “deescalate” the situation and get Cox home safely.

Once back at home, a visibly shaken Cox took to Instagram live to share her experience in a 10-minute clip. “It doesn’t matter who you are,” she said, addressing her celebrity status. “You can be, like, Laverne Cox—whatever that means—if you’re trans, you’re going to experience stuff like this.”

Cox went on, “I think it’s important to remind myself and remind you that when these things happen, it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that there are people not cool with you existing in the world.”

On Monday morning, Cox returned to Instagram Live, overwhelmed by the outpouring of love she had received overnight, after her first video garnered more than 400,000 views. In just 35 minutes, Cox managed to use the incident as a teachable moment, a virtual group hug, and a means to shine a light on the trans people who have not been lucky enough to escape their attackers. She told the stories of two of them in particular, Islan Nettles and Mercedes Williamson.

“I didn’t want to be a trigger source for my community, but I also felt it was important to talk about because I have a platform,” Cox said. “If you are in public and someone reads you as trans, stuff can happen. That’s why I’m talking about this publicly. I hope it helps. I hope it makes some kind of difference.”

Showing strength and vulnerability in equal measure, Cox directly addressed the men who feel violent urges towards trans women and offered a reasoned explanation of the root of that violence. She based it on her own experiences with straight men in public places throughout her life.

“Why is your sense of survival threatened by being attracted to a trans person?” she asked. “Why is your sense of safety so deeply threatened that you feel the need to extinguish the thing that you found attractive? That is the question that I would ask you. And with a lot of love and a lot of compassion.” Cox added: “We should not be dying because men are attracted to us and don’t want other people to know about it.”

The actress went on to explain how she copes and heals after new and frightening incidents, like the one in the park, trigger old traumas. She shared methods and tools to avoid spiraling into past memories, grief and shame, so that others in similar situations might benefit. “I will not be defined by this moment in my life,” she stated. “It is crucial to not be defined by violence that happens to you.”

Cox also discussed providing trans people with better access to housing, healthcare, safer schools, and even dating sites. She pointed out that this year has been the deadliest on record for trans people in America. And she emphasized the importance of reporting all incidents of harassment and violence against trans people to the police, despite “our community’s complicated relationship with [police departments].” She shared that she had filed a report with the LAPD after they reached out to her.

Above all, Cox offered catharsis, using the awful thing that happened to her to remind her 4.4 million followers how much love exists for trans people around the world. “It’s a beautiful thing to be a Black trans woman who experienced what I experienced on Saturday and then to receive all of the love that I received,” she said. “I embrace my transness. I believe trans is beautiful. I know my transness is why, in part, that I’m magical. Like, I really know that in my core.”

You can watch the video in full below.

Copyright 2020 KQED