Laverne Cox Comes to MU

By: Waverly Colville, E23 Staffer

“Ain’t I a woman??” Laverne Cox proudly exclaims as she struts across the Missouri Theatre stage wearing a red dress and matching heels on the night of October 6.

She also, much to the crowd’s enjoyment, showed her love for Mizzou by leading the crowd in the M-I-Z Z-O-U chant several times.

Cox, transgender activist and actress, is best known for playing Sophia Burset on Netflix’s hit show Orange is the New Black. Among other accomplishments, she was nominated for an Emmy Award and was featured on the cover of Time Magazine.

Her speech title, “Ain’t I a woman?” is from a speech by Sojourner Truth, a black woman born into slavery. Truth used this phrase when she was denied equal rights during the Women’s Rights Convention in 1863 because she was black

Cox spoke about her life, her transition to become a woman, and how to combat violence as a transgender woman of color.

Growing up in Alabama as a transgender female, she faced opposition in expressing who she truly was. Her teacher called her mother with concerns that her son “would end up in New Orleans singing in a dress.” She also attended therapy, as recommended by her teacher. Her mother also didn’t approve at first, and Cox said it took years of difficult conversations with her mother until she was fully accepting. Her classmates also bullied her for not acting “male” like how she was supposed to when she was a male, causing her to attempt suicide in 6th grade.

Early in her life, Cox studied tap and jazz, but wasn’t allowed to take ballet because her mother said it was “too gay.” However, when applying to college, the only major at the Alabama School of Fine Arts for dance was ballet, so she applied as a creative writing major then transferred to dance. After, she attended Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, where she started dressing trans and found an accepting community in the nightclub scene.

Cox also discussed acts of violence against transgender woman of color, describing instances where they were denied equal protection under the law and were beaten or murdered for being who they are.

Cox is an inspiration to people, especially women, around the world, regardless of sexual orientation. She spoke about the lessons she’s learned from the challenges she’s had to overcome that can be applied to anyone from all walks of life. She spoke about being a strong woman and facing oppression by fighting back and not letting bullies get their way.

Keep strutting, Laverne. You are a woman to look up to.