Laverne Cox is a woman who is known for her personal, inspiring speech about her life experiences as a black trans woman. Although it is clear that Cox has faced many difficulties, she has decided to focus on one particularly shocking event that changed her perspective on life, and has made her the face of a movement.
One day, while Cox was walking down a street in New York City, two men, a black man and a Latino man, approached her. Initially, being attracted to her, they began to shout degrading things towards her like “Yo, mama, can I holla at you?” At first, Cox could ignore them; however, once the men realized that she was a trans woman, they became even more insulting, “They began to argue about whether I was the b word or the n word” Cox states. Feeling very uncomfortable at this point in the situation, Cox began to become anxious, as she felt she was unsafe, “Our lives are often in danger, simply for being who we are, when we are trans women.” Eventually she was able to cross the street and leave the very uncomfortable situation without harm.
Cox’s story reflects the lives of many trans black women in the world today, and the struggles that they go through in their everyday lives. Specifically, it revolves around the discrimination and prejudice towards women, black people, and trans people, and the intersectionality that unfortunately consumes those who are a part of all three categories, causing them to be more vulnerable to violent acts.
First, being a woman comes with its disadvantages in today’s society. We are seen as less capable than men, and although equality has been and is still being striven for, there still remain a handful of problems corresponding to the uniformity of men and women. In terms of violence, women are seen as weak and naive when compared to men, which alternatively makes them more vulnerable to violent acts. This is shown throughout popular culture in many ways, especially horror movies. Rarely is there a horror movie when the woman isn’t being attacked, harassed, or kidnapped. They are always seen as the victim, whether it is on a movie screen, or real life situations.
Next, there is the problem with discrimination towards black people. Being that there is a lot of racism found in today’s society, they don’t have the opportunity to live full and complete lives. Due to systemic racism, there is clear evidence that a lot of societies believe in white supremacy. This causes a huge problem, as white people then start to believe that black people are lesser than they are, and they begin to use violence as a lens as the only way of looking at them. This hand-in-hand creates a greater chance that black people could be put into dangerous situations, without having the ability to protect themselves, just because they are seen as a danger to society. As Javon Johnson states in his slam poem, “It’s not about whether the shooter is racist, it’s about how poor black [kids] are treated as problems well before we’re treated as people”.
Last, being transgender comes side-by-side with issues of protection and safety within the criminal justice system, leading towards them also being in situations of being abused and violated on the streets. According to Surya Monro and Lorna Warren, “Transgender is inadequately dealt with by the criminal justice system… Transsexual people lack full legislative protection, facing barriers regarding many aspects of citizenship, including parenthood and marriage… Transgender people of all groupings frequently experience violence and abuse.” (346) Due to this, it is clear that being transgender can lead to higher rates of abuse and violence, even though it is very unfortunate.
Cox’s story reveals and connects how all of these aforementioned categories intersect into creating a group of women that are at the top of the ladder for being victim to violent acts around the world. According to Cox, the violent acts pursued towards this group of women are a mixture of misogyny, intersecting with trans-phobia, intersecting with some racist stuff.
The sad reality is that this is in fact true. These women are attacked, beaten, abused and murdered frequently, yet nothing has been done about it. If people of higher authority won’t take the time to fix this issue, then we as members of the society need to make a change ourselves. Cornel West once said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” If we begin to treat everybody in our communities as equals and with respect, then there would be less violence and hatred; there would be love. Can we change for the better?
Button Poetry. “Javon Johnston-Cus He’s Black (NPS 2013)”. Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 20 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.
“Cornel West Quotes.” Cornel West Quotes (Author of Race Matters). Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/6176.Cornel_West>.
Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What To Do About It).” Everyday Feminism 7 Dec. 2014. Print.
Love: Leave Out Violence. Digital image. 10 Mar. 2015. Web.
Monro, Surya, and Lorna Warren. “Transgendering Citizenship.” Sexualities 7.3(2004): 345-62. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.