By: Jonathan Hogue ~Opinions & Editorials Editor
Laverne Cox entered the Schiff Banquet Hall to a standing ovation from an enthusiastic crowd. Cox came to Xavier as part of her campus speaking series “Ain’t I A Woman?,” which focuses on issues surrounding racial, gender and sexual identities.
“I stand before you this evening as a proud, transgender, African American woman,” Cox said to the audience.
During the talk, Cox explained how years of personal struggle and issues with self-identity helped her grow as an actress.
“I am not just one thing,” she said.
The lecture occurred as the transgender community is receiving heightened attention and, at times, backlash. This year will be the deadliest on record for the community, with 21 transgender deaths reported nationwide. Transgender Americans also struggle with an unemployment rate that is double the national average.
Throughout the lecture Cox infused her own story with those of activists that began the work she is continuing.
“Justice is what loves looks like in public,” Cox said, quoting Cornel West.
With her head held high, Cox discussed how her beginnings in Mobile, Ala., to a single mother put her at an economic disadvantage. This, coupled with her mother’s apprehension at transgender identity, challenged Cox’s ability to develop self-love.
“Guilt is something I did wrong. Shame is I am something wrong,” Cox said when discussing her family’s slow acceptance of her transgender identity. “I felt safe in my imagination.”
Performing in church was an outlet that allowed Cox to develop an identity and hone the talents that would make her famous in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.”
In her closing remarks, Cox told attendees that the road to acceptance is difficult.
“I arrived in New York City with all of these misconceptions about what transgender people are because of the media and the fear of God that was put in me,” Cox said about her move to New York City.
In the end, she discussed her ability to look beyond struggles and accept love that is available from friends and family.
Following her lecture, Cox took questions from audience members and spoke briefly with the Xavier Alliance group. This event was a star-studded beginning for Student Activities Council as it brings thought-provoking activities to campus.