Yesha Callahan

Black Transgender Actress: I Was Feared as a Man

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Laverne Cox is currently a part of the ensemble cast of  Netflix’s hit series “Orange Is The New Black”. What makes her role in the series monumental is because this is the first time a transgender character is being portrayed by a black transgender woman. Cox plays Sophia Burset, a former firefighter sent to prison for using credit cards stolen from the wreckage of fires she helped put out. In prison, she’s a hairdresser, but is struggling to get access to her female hormones and repairing her relationship with her wife and son.

In a recent article for The Advocate Cox writes about the differences she’s experienced from being a man, to now living life as a woman:

But when I was attempting to live part-time in boy drag, I was hyper-aware of how perceptions of black masculinity influence the ways in which people behave in relationship to a body in the public space. I noticed how much harder it was to get a taxi, for example, when I was dressed in boy drag as opposed to when I was dressed as myself. In black male drag, I noticed white women cross to the other side of the street and clutch their purses tighter.

When I was perceived as a black man I became a threat to public safety. When I was dressed as myself, it was my safety that was threatened. It was usually other black people who policed my gender, called me out, or made fun of me on subways, street corners, and in delicatessens. I believe it is because I am also black that I became their target. These same folks would often ignore white trans and gender nonconforming folks in the same spaces, even those who passed even less than I did at the time. Systemic racism not only encourages the state and non-black individuals to police and monitor black bodies, white supremacy encourages other black folks to do so as well.

Almost 15 years into my transition, I am still black and I still live in New York City. I still sometimes hear “That’s a man” screamed or whispered toward me as I walk down the street, but not nearly as much as I used to. So many basic things are better and more congruent in my life today as I enter the public space as myself, but I am acutely aware of how sexism and transmisogyny intersect with racism to police my now black trans woman’s body in public space.

Cox’s statement appears to mirror other statements that have been made in regards to how some black people perceive the LGBT community.

Read Laverne Cox’s entire piece at Advocate.com.

  1. July 19, 2013 - Reply

    Okay….moving on….

  2. July 19, 2013 - Reply

    This show is awesome

  3. July 19, 2013 - Reply

    Wait! I had no idea she used to be a man!! I’ve seen her so many times on other shows!

    This is my absolute fav show right now.

    • July 19, 2013 - Reply

      @Jalesa Montez

      I knew it, but the show confirmed it! She’s great at what she does!

  4. July 19, 2013 - Reply

    I loved this show and she played her character well..I hope to see her in the next season. I

  5. July 19, 2013 - Reply

    i have nothing against transgender but does anyone else find it strange that a black man can throw on some makeup and a wig and look JUST LIKE A BLACK WOMAN. ive never seen a white transgender man do such a thing and look just like a white woman. Something for us black women to think about. #justsayin

    • July 19, 2013 - Reply

      @Kate

      Obviously haven’t been in Thailand and some Latin countries, Brazil or even Russia where transgender are absolutely gorgeous and look more feminine than women AND men are fooled (or pretend to be lol) every time.

      I found funny how you are implying than black women are manly looking but won’t say black men are feminine looking when made up.

      • August 5, 2013 - Reply

        @Nubiahbella

        Fooled? If they identify as women, then that’s what they are. Disgusting ignorance, ignorance is disgusting.

  6. July 19, 2013 - Reply

    Laverne’s character on OITNB just might be my fave. She plays her role so well, and despite her criminal circumstance, I find myself rooting for Sophia. I’m glad that the show went with an actual transgendered person and not a male that may have awkwardly stumbled through the role.

    I’m so ready for Season 2, by the way.

  7. July 19, 2013 - Reply

    Scary…. for now on I’m asking for DNA test before all future dates.

  8. July 19, 2013 - Reply

    In the Advocate article, he says that he was not passing for a female but he is surprised that he heard the whispers of black people saying that is a dude dressed as a woman?

  9. July 20, 2013 - Reply

    Laverne is gorgeous!

  10. July 21, 2013 - Reply

    I met her a couple years ago. She is an awesome person and really sweet and empowering!!!

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