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Coming from a conservative family, I wasn’t exposed to any positive representation of the LGBTQ culture until college. Laverne Cox, transgender activist and star of Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” (OITNB), was one of the first people representing the transgender community I became aware of — which I admit was entirely because of her role on OITNB.
After listening to her speech on transgender awareness and inclusivity in Chumash Auditorium this past Thursday evening, I — someone with no transgender eduction — learned the following compelling facts:
1. Gender policing perpetuates society’s idea of the gender binary model.
Cox explained that assuming someone is male or female and harassing them for not conforming to the norms associated with that assumed gender does real damage. She used the example of the gender binary model for bathrooms, which shows a lack of inclusivity by only giving male and female options.
2. Having a passion can be ‘life-saving.’
Cox went on to discuss her love for dance. She said because her mother had enrolled her in a dance class at such a young age she was able to express herself and make goals for the future of her passion. This led her to eventually major in dance at the Alabama School of Fine Arts.
“If you can find something in this world that you are truly passionate about, it can be life-saving,” she said.
3. Suicide rates in the transgender community are significantly higher than that of the general population.
Forty-one percent of people who are transgender or gender-nonconforming have attempted suicide at some point in their lives, as opposed to a 1.6 percent suicide attempt rate among the general population, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.
4. Shame is not the same as humiliation.
Cox explained that shame is feeling like you are to blame or you are not worth what you truly are. She references Brene Brown’s TED Talk on shame to better explain how detrimental it can be to shame people who are transgender.
5. Misgendering a trans person can be taken as an act of violence.
She recalled her what it was like being “spooked” in New York City, which means other people were audibly commenting on the fact that she is transgender. Cox, who identifies as a woman, says “misgendering transgender people is an act of violence.”
6. Hurt-people, hurt people.
Cox described a scenario where a woman on a subway in New York city told her, “I think you should die.” Cox went on to explain the importance to “create spaces to heal from our pain so we don’t take it out on each other.”
7. Knowledge is key in understanding and accepting.
Cox explained that though she is a transgender woman herself, she used to have misconceptions of the way transgender people could live their lives based on what she had been exposed to at that point.