Laverne Cox Visits MU

Laverne Cox Visits MULaverne Cox Visits MU



Sarah Sabatke – MUTV 23 News Staff Writer


The sidewalk outside of the historic Missouri Theater filled with students on Monday, Oct. 6, as they waited to hear from acclaimed actress and activist Laverne Cox.

Cox, 30, is best known for her portrayal of transgender hairstylist Sophia Burset on the hit Netflix series “Orange Is The New Black.” The show helped her make history in 2014 when she became the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy in the acting category.

In  an orange and black dress, she began her speech titled “Ain’t I A Woman”  after the famous speech given by Sojourner Truth. Cox discussed her upbringing and her struggles with bullying in school, as well as her views on gender expression and equality.

“I stand before you this evening a proud, African-American, transgender woman. I believe it is important to name the various intersecting components of my multiple identities because I am not just one thing. I believe it is important to claim the various intersecting components of my multiple identities with pride in public.”

Cox recalled a moment when, in third grade, she began to notice the disapproval of others towards her behavior.

“It happened one day when my third grade teacher Ms. Ridgeway called my mother and said, “Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress if we don’t get him into therapy right away.”

The actress, a long-time activist for the freedom of gender expression and anti-bullying, shared alarming statistics surrounding the transgender community and urged students to take action.

“The homicide rate in the LGBTQ community is highest amongst trans women according to the National Coalition of Antiviolence Projects. In 2013 over 72% of all LGBTQ homicides were trans women, over 67% were trans women of color. The unemployment rate in the trans community is twice the national average, four time that for trans people of color according to the Injustice at Every Turn National Transgender Survey.”

Students were excited to have such a high profile speaker on campus, and they were also excited to hear what she would say to the diverse student population.

“I love “Orange Is The New Black” so it was so exciting to have such a big name here at Mizzou … Being on the cover of Time magazine, she’s really a groundbreaking actress and it’s so exciting to be able to see her speak. She’s funny when she needs to be, she’s dramatic, she’s really just incredible” said freshman Meredith Foster.

Cox quoted numerous activists and feminists throughout her speech, including a notable quote from the work of French feminist Simone de Beauvoir.

“One is not born a woman, but rather becomes one. In analysis of this moment, nowhere in Simon de Beauvoir’s account is it guaranteed that the one who becomes a woman is necessarily female” said Cox.

The actress reminded audience members about the dangers of gender policing, noting that it was not only LGBTQ people’s genders that were being policed. She stressed the importance of not defining someone else.

“You can’t tell someone who they are. Let them tell you”.

Students were impressed by Cox’s eloquence and by all that she had to say. Many took away important lessons to apply to their own lives. Representation from the LGBTQ community was strong, and the diverse crowd appreciated Cox’s honesty and relatability.

“ Justice is what love looks like in public.”


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