Anti-homosexual slurs and catcalling is a commonality for many people within the LGBTQ community, but for trans women of colour it has become a form of sexual harassment that they experience in their everyday lives. Many of you may know Laverne Cox as the trans-gendered women on the hugely popular television series, Orange is The New Black. What you may not know is that she is also someone who experiences this same type of sexual harassment when she walks through the streets of New York City. Having the special privilege to be a celebrity who has a voice within the public eye, Laverne has become an advocate for the LGBTQ community, and she is trying to shed light on the increasing amount of trans women of colour who are the victims of homicidal attacks.
Among the 72 percent of trans women who make up homicides against LGBTQ people, 89 percent of them are people of colour. In order to help find a solution to this problem, Laverne presents an intersectional analysis of transphobia, racism, and misogyny. In doing so she explains that the issue of sexual harassment against trans women of colour can be found in the roots of systematic oppression that people of colour, male or female, experience on a daily basis. Using the example of the emasculation of African-Americans during the slave trade period to show how anti-blackness has caused the emasculation of black bodies over time, Laverne proves that she along with other trans women of colour are largely harassed by black males because they themselves, do not feel comfortable with who they are. When she herself experienced sexual harassment while walking on the streets of Upper East Side of Manhattan, it turned out to become a prime example for the intersectionality of society’s issue with her race and gender orientation. During this specific occurrence Laverne was harassed on the street by two black men who did not know whether to call her a b****h or the n-word. This was an interesting situation because originally the men were clearly acting misogynistic, but as soon as they realized that she might be trans-gendered they became uncomfortable with their actions, and began to provoke her.
Violence as a lens provides a definition for the type of oppression Laverne explains throughout her speech while examining the harassment and bullying towards trans women of colour and LGBTQ children. Violence as a lens is a way we see and ‘know’ black bodies, because they are produced as the appropriate recipients of violence and seen as less human. LGBTQ children, as well as trans women of colour, are often given less respect from society by becoming victims of homophobia, because they are scared of not conforming to the likes of people’s heterosexist standards. Laverne believes that LGBTQ children need to live in a country where they are able to express their gender without having to conform to the ideals of the ‘bully’, or in a larger sense, society. There is an evident link between the treatment of LGBTQ kids, the violence against trans women of colour and the way they are treated by society. It is important to realize that the stories of harassment that Laverne presented might have been different if the women involved in the harassment were white trans women, or even just white heterosexual women. The problem lies with the fact that society has created an underlying disrespect for transgender women overtime, just as much they have for people of colour throughout history.
In order to stress that the only solution to this combination of transphobia, racism, and misogyny is to start to love all races and genders, Laverne quotes a famous African-American philosopher, Cornell West, who reminds us that “justice is what love looks like in public”. Since Laverne does not present a real solution other then stating that we should love each other, it is hard to see this problem being solved in the near future without a clear-cut plan. It may take more then just love. Maybe even some form of anti-racist policies implemented by the government to stop the murders of trans women of colour. Unfortunately the only way to truly solve this issue is to first solve the problems with racial prejudice that still exist today.
Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. 7 Dec. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/>.