Despite a year that’s seen tremendous leaps forward for the recognition and respect of same sex marriage throughout the country, there’s still a long way to go toward acceptance of transgender persons, Time magazine points out in this week’s cover story “The Transgender Tipping Point.” As we saw in the recent controversy over Arcade Fire’s video “We Exist”, even people with their heart in the right place still don’t seem to know exactly how to talk about, or address the issue.
For the cover of the issue, Time photographed Orange Is the New Black‘s Laverne Cox. Aside from looking stunning, she shared her perspective on growing up transgender.
The people out there in America who have no idea what being transgender means, what do they need to understand?
There’s not just one trans story. There’s not just one trans experience. And I think what they need to understand is that not everybody who is born feels that their gender identity is in alignment with what they’re assigned at birth, based on their genitalia. If someone needs to express their gender in a way that is different, that is okay, and they should not be denied healthcare. They should not be bullied. They don’t deserve to be victims of violence. … That’s what people need to understand, that it’s okay and that if you are uncomfortable with it, then you need to look at yourself.
Janet Mock [who wrote a best-selling memoir called Redefining Realness] has said that what’s happening in this moment is that trans people are taking more control over their narrative. Would you agree?
Absolutely. We have to listen to people. Folks want to believe that genitals and biology are like destiny! All these designations are based on a penis, however many inches that is, and then a vagina. And that’s supposed to say all these different things about who people are. When you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous. People need to be willing to let go of what they think they know about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman. Because that doesn’t necessarily mean anything inherently. Folks are just really uncomfortable with that sense of uncertainty, or that shift.
Read more and watch a video of the interview here.