Laverne Cox is an award winning actress and television producer. For many in the LGBTQ community she is a role model and advocate. Her presence in popular television shows is beginning to pave the way for other transgender men and women within the workplace. However, just like the street harassment described in Laverne’s anecdote transgender people often face a world of hate and discrimination. Laverne discusses these issues in her speech while applying an intersectional analysis of the transphobia, racism, and misogyny that is a detriment to society.
Laverne Cox was a feature presenter at the 2014 Creating Change Conference. As such an important role model for many people she received a warm welcome from the audience in which she responds “justice is what love looks like in public, and this feels so just right now, yes. But– but I have to tell you, I have to tell you that I am not used to receiving this kind of love, everybody. I’m not used to it”. The quote that she has adopted as a driving theme in her speeches “justice is what love looks like in public” is powerful. This quote is instills the concept that when someone is loved and accepted they are receiving the justice they deserve as a human being. This may be true for all forms of hatred or oppression. To love is to accept someone for who they truly are. Therefore, when someone receives justice or love the walls built up by racism or by binaries are torn down. Lavern Cox and many advocates all over the world are fighting towards a world of justice.
A reoccurring theme throughout Laverne’s speech is the concept of transmisogyny. The core word, misogyny, implies the hatred of women and the assumption that femininity is inferior to masculinity. Thus, the victims of transmisogyny are transwomen. The bases of the hatred toward the transwomen reaches beyond the issues of sexism and transphobia. Transmisogyny combines the alienation of people not conforming to gender binaries. Binaries being either male or female, heterosexual or homosexual. In reality gender, sex, and sexuality lives on a spectrum. For many people in society this concept leaves them uncomfortable due to their lack of knowledge. To cope, people in the transgendered community are routinely oppressed and marginalized. With the lack of acceptance from society, transgender men and women are not receiving justice or love. This is acknowledged in Laverne Cox’s story in which she is dehumanized by the men referring to her in derogatory terms. They ask her what she is? In a world of acceptance and justice this concept would be abstract and people would be free to adhere to wherever they felt comfortable on the gender spectrum. However, the men seemingly felt a need to distinguish this fact to satisfy their own personal discomfort. This act displays transmisogyny through the mens incessant need to not feel emasculated by a transwomen. At this point in Laverne’s speech she begins to express the history of sexuality of black men. In some sense I agree with her explanation of a inner desire to prove masculinity. However, the issue is much more complicated than just a historical notion. The framework of the discrimination occurs from ill-acceptance and ignorance. Advocates for the LGBTQ community are rallying to educate and bring justice for transgendered men and women.
A study completed in Toronto outlined that white privilege has constructed a particular image of a “real” women as being white, passive, and feminine. In accordance with Laverne’s experiences, the study indicated that transwomen of colour experience an intersectional stigma, such as racism and sexism, on a daily basis (Logie 174-191). White transwomen also faced street harassment; however, not as frequently. This outlines the white privilege because women of colour are being oppressed through an intersection of both racial and queer communities. The white transwomen are living in a society where the “idea” of beauty in media is predominately white. Thus, their ability to find a space in society is greater than that of a coloured transwomen. The article states that “by representing queerness as white, LBTQ women of colour were rendered invisible in both queer and racialized communities” (Logie 174-191). The invisibility that cloaks coloured transwomen in society allows for violence to occur. Unjust actions towards these women are a result of the dehumanization by society and the authorities. These actions must become just through love and acceptance.
Laverne Cox draws attention to issues that have corrupted society for decades. It is an unfortunate reality that the troubles surrounding rights and justice for transgendered women and the LGBTQ community as a whole will not be fixed overnight. It will take many more tragedies and thousands more people rallying together to make a change.
Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2015.
Laverne Cox at Creating Change 2014. Perf. Laverne Cox. National LGBTQ Task Force, 5 Feb. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015.
Logie, Carmen H., and Marie-Jolie Rwigema. ““The Normative Idea of Queer is a White Person”: Understanding Perceptions of White Privilege Among Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer Women of Color in Toronto, Canada.” Journal of lesbian studies 18.2 (2014): 174-191.