A show about women in prison could have easily devolved into mindless titillation or stereotypical boredom. But Netflix’s breakout hit “Orange Is The New Black” has skillfully avoided either trapping. Instead, viewers are treated to a show with well-thought-out story lines, sharp social commentary, diverse, multi-faceted characters with compelling backgrounds, and stellar performances. One of these standouts is actress Laverne Cox, who captures audiences with her portrayal of transgender prison inmate, Sophia Burset.
Looking at her career thus far, it’s easy to see why some have deemed Laverne a trailblazer in many ways. Not only has she made the enviable leap from reality star (appearing on VH1’s “I Want to Work For Diddy”) to skilled actress, but she’s also a producer and transgender advocate. Laverne’s visibility as a trans actress of color is breaking barriers on many levels, and hopefully will pave the way for more rich roles created for trans actors.
I had the chance to speak with Cox and learned more about working with Jodie Foster, her relationship to her activism and her art, and the future of trans actors. Keep reading »
“I’m insecure about how I look … I was looking at some stills from the show that are up online. [In the past] I was like, “When I am successful, I’m going to look differently. I will have had more surgery, I will be thinner. And that will equal me being successful.” And then I was looking at myself with all the imperfections that I see, and still people are relating to this character, people are connecting to her. On social media people love Sophia. So I’m on this show that is kind of a hit now and I don’t look like Beyoncé. I haven’t had the extreme makeover to look like that, so maybe I can just be authentically myself. Maybe that’s enough.
A lot of it is just about me wanting to beat myself up because I’m not pretty enough. I’ve had this thing where people are writing all sort of articles, “Laverne Cox has broken the trans glass ceiling.” People are writing all this crazy stuff that I’m this groundbreaking whatever. I have moments where I’m like, I’m not pretty enough or passable enough to be that girl. I’m not pretty enough to really represent the community in this way. Sometimes I sound like a man and all that kind of stuff where I feel like I’m not feminine enough, I’m not enough authentically. Also, I’ve noticed the biggest way that internalized homophobia, racism, or transphobia manifests itself is in how we treat each other.”
– “Orange Is The New Black” actress Laverne Cox, on her insecurities about being a trans role model, and how her internalized transphobia manifests in her life. Cox, who got her start in reality TV — on “I Want To Work For Diddy,” no less — also discusses how difficult it can be to date while trans and visible: Keep reading »
As told to Lauren Gitlin.
It was always kind of under the surface, this idea that I wasn’t quite comfortable with my body. I remember looking at this book my parents gave me when I was 8 years old and I saw drawings of what men’s bodies were like and what women’s bodies were like, and how bodies changed through puberty. And I remember identifying more with male bodies, like that was the kind of body I wanted. Keep reading »
Growing up, transgender teenager Katie Hill knew she should have been born a girl, not a boy. At 18, she transitioned from her male body to a female form. Her boyfriend, Arin Andrews, also knew he’d been born in the wrong body — but in his case, he identified as male, not with his female-born body. The two Oklahoma teens met in a transgender support group and fell in love.
That was before they both moved forward in their respective physical transitions. “I hated my breasts, I always felt like they didn’t belong.” Now, “I finally feel comfortable in my own body,” Andrews said after having his breasts removed last month. “Now when I’m out in a public pool or lifting weights, no one raises an eyebrow. They just think I’m a guy. … I can wear a tank top, which I couldn’t before, and I can go swimming shirtless. I can just be a regular guy. And I’m so lucky to have my family and Katie to rely on.” [SDGLN]
For the past three years, photographer Lindsay Morris has been following a group of special kids who attend an annual four-day camp for “gender-nonconforming boys and their parents.” In order to protect the boys and their families, Morris simply refers to the camp as Camp You Are You, and explains it as a place where these boys “don’t have to look over their shoulders, and they can let down their guard. Those are four days when none of that matters, and they are surrounded by family members who support them.” Keep reading »
Guys, I love sarcasm. It’s a heady, delicious treat I eat up on the hour. But even I have my sarcasm limits. Case in point: Gawker writer Hamiliton Nolan’s response to a piece by xoJane writer s.e. smith about the western appropriation of Eastern religion, specifically in the context of yoga, and whether someone with an atheist viewpoint should really practice yoga. I’m not going to get into that, because I personally hate yoga and can’t understand why people are always freaking out about it. Howevs, it’s how Nolan wrote about s.e.’s piece that’s super irksome.
Throughout the piece, Nolan referred to smith by the pronouns her/she, which is not how s.e. identifies. When the Gawker piece came out, a couple members of the xoJane team wrote in to let Nolan know that s.e.’s preferred pronoun is “ou.” s.e. has written about preferring “ou” before, and even mentions it in ou’s xoJane bio: “s.e. smith is a writer, agitator, and commentator based in Northern California. Ou focuses on social issues, particularly gender, prison reform, disability rights, environmental justice, queerness, class, and the intersections thereof, and has a special interest in rural subjects.” Keep reading »
Fallon Fox received a lot of attention and abuse in March after she was forced to come out as a transgender woman. Fallon had been a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter for six years, but as soon as she came out, she was faced with a barrage of transphobic comments, and many people accused her of having an unfair advantage because she was once physically a man. Some argued that she had more testosterone in her body than a cisgender (people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth) woman. Others claimed that she would have larger or denser bones than a cisgender woman.
These assumptions and accusations do not just apply to Fallon Fox: lots of trans athletes are discriminated against because there’s an assumption that e a trans woman must have some physical advantage over cisgender women — but science says otherwise. In fact, an article on Outsports debunks a couple of these myths.
Keep reading »
A win for the transgender community! Coy Mathis, a transgendered 6-year-old from Fountain, Colorado has won a case against the Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, allowing her to officially use the girls’ bathroom.
Coy had been using the girls’ bathroom at her school because she identifies as a female. Although she was assigned the male gender at birth, she wears girls’ clothing and is identified as female in both her passport and state identification.
In December, the Eagleside Elementary School principal asked Coy to use the boys’ bathroom, gender-neutral faculty bathrooms or the nurse’s bathroom. Coy’s parents, Kathryn and Jeremy Mathis, filed a complaint back in February, with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, citing discrimination. Keep reading »
A woman in Kalamazoo, Michigan claims that she has been fired for showing up to work at the restaurant, Harvey’s on the Mall, in dressed as a man. The restaurant, however, claims that her termination had nothing to do with her gender-bending outfit, but rather with her failure to comply with the restaurant’s dress code.
Myah VanTil dressed in drag (image above) for LGBT Pride last Saturday and says that she spent two hours drawing a 5 o’clock shadow on her face and then 45 more minutes binding her chest. She then showed up to work dressed like this, in solidarity with the LGBT community.
According to Equality MI, Kalamazzo law does support VanTil in her freedom to express both her gender identity and/or sexual orientation at work. But Harvey’s argues that she was fired for insubordination because she specifically asked them if she could dress in drag and was told “no.” Keep reading »