Celebrating Women’s History Month and Trans Day of Visibility
Laverne Cox, actress best known for her role as Sophia Burset in “Orange is the New Black,” virtually visited Cleveland State University for a Q&A session on April 8. The event was organized by CSU’s Mareyjoyce Green Women’s Center and LGBTQ+ Student Services Center, in celebration of both Women’s History Month and Trans Day of Visibility.
Cox herself noted the importance of the collaboration, saying, “So much of the discourse happening around trans issues now pits women against trans folks… I think it is very important to intentionally push against that narrative. And so, I just wanted to acknowledge that.”
Kara Tellaisha- coordinator of LGBTQ+ Student Services Center and moderator of the event- introduced Cox with an overview of the star’s career. Of which includes four Emmy nominations for acting, an Emmy for producing, and a long history of equal rights advocacy. Cox’s groundbreaking role in “Orange is the New Black” made her the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for a Primetime Acting Emmy. In addition, she is also the first transgender woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television series.
“She is a trailblazer and a remarkable advocate who we knew would inspire our students,” said Tellaisha in a statement to “The Cauldron.” “We also wanted one of the themes of this conversation to be intersectionality, and Laverne spoke about her experiences as a Black trans woman.”
Cox discussed her career trajectory and its accompanying challenges before moving on to student questions. Social work graduate student, Andrea Holcomb, was the first to ask a question.
On the experience, Holcomb told “The Cauldron,” “Laverne has been a huge inspiration for myself and so many other trans people, it was very surreal to finally meet her, but an experience I would not trade for anything.”
The conversation shifted to significant historical figures and role models, something transgender people do not always have.
“Being transgender myself, it often feels like I am throwing darts with a blindfold on. There are not many transgender adults to look up to and use as role models, much less someone to provide helpful insight on nuanced subjects,” said Nathan Parin, another student who got to ask Cox a question.
“Meeting Laverne and having her answer my question made me feel seen. She has this family-oriented energy around her, almost like you are talking to an older sister or an aunt. Laverne gives me hope and inspiration to live as a visible transgender adult.”
On the importance of representation, Tellaisha added, “CSU is so beautifully diverse, and visibility and representation are so important. When we see people like us who are celebrated and thriving, we can also more clearly see the hope and beauty within ourselves and our lives.”
EDIT 8/17/21: A recording of the event is available here.