TIME Just Took a Huge Stand for Trans Rights the Media Hasn't Had the Guts For
After her egregious omission from this year's TIME 100 List, Laverne Cox has been vindicated, apparently. But who needs to be one member of a long list when you can be the latest cover girl?
Move over, Beyoncé.
TIME made amends, and not only by making Cox its cover girl, but by including a separate print and video interview with the Orange is the New Black star that focuses on her life and activism as well as what the magazine calls "the transgender tipping point."
The magazine interview touches upon Cox's childhood in Mobile, Ala., as well as her assessment of the sea of change occurring within the transgender community in both visibility and acceptance. Cox credits the start of the movement to the now infamous Katie Couric interview in which Cox and Carmen Carrera called out trans ignorance and insensitivity in the media.
"That felt like a moment when things really shifted. I felt really good about it and I remember thinking, 'As many people who have been on daytime TV, I've never heard someone push back and really talk about the homicide rate in the trans community and talk about the disproportionate discrimination and talk about someone like Islan Nettles, who lost her life just because she was walking down the street while trans,'" Cox said. "And to shift the narrative away from transition and surgery. I've never seen someone challenge that narrative on television before. But in the community, we've been talking about this and frustrated for years."
In a behind-the-scenes video, Cox also reiterated her message of ending violence against the trans community as a social justice movement — that we must attend to issues of race and class, in addition to those of gender and sexuality, to really lift an entire community.
TIME's cover story, "The Transgender Tipping Point," reiterates what many have been saying for well over a year now: The trans movement is the new big socio-political movement, and trans women have revived the feminist movement.
The continued success of this movement, as Cox notes in her interview and as has been noted in an earlier PolicyMic article, is predicated on the the ability of trans people to control their own narrative.
The trans rights movement, "still in its incipient years ... is by all accounts immensely successful," Cox said. In large part, as Thomas McBee observed in his exposition on "How Trans Rights Became the Civil Rights Struggle of Our Generation," this success is grounded upon one basic strategy: controlling the narrative.
Visibility fosters awareness. Cox, as other trans activists like her, is so effective in part because of her steadfast commitment to the cause, and her ability to remain on message about how this visibility saves lives:
We are in a place now where more and more trans people want to come forward and say 'This is who I am.' And more trans people are willing to tell their stories. More of us are living visibly and pursuing our dreams visibly, so people can say, 'Oh yeah, I know someone who is trans.' When people have points of reference that are humanizing, that demystifies difference.
Cox also acknowledged the tremendous role social media and the Internet have played in the burgeoning movement. Social media has given the trans community "a voice in a way that we haven't been able to before. We're being able to write our stories and we're being able to talk back to the media … We are the reason. And we are setting the agenda in a different way."
Still, the fight for trans equality is an ongoing one, as around the country the trans community continues to suffer disproportionately from high rates of bullying, unemployment and violence, especially homicide. "The trans movement, and the LGBT movement in general really has to be a social justice movement," Cox noted. With advocates like Cox, Janet Mock, Geena Rocero, Carmen Carrera and others leading the drum beat for change, hopefully the recent increase in trans visibility will lead to much-needed institutional and cultural progress.