All You Need Is Love?: Laverne Cox’s Fight for Love and Justice

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.

-12sdt

Sources:

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/&gt;.

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4 thoughts on “All You Need Is Love?: Laverne Cox’s Fight for Love and Justice

  1. I think you raise a really good point about the ambiguity of Laverne Cox’s suggestion. I think that an important question we should then be asking is what would love look like? Do policy changes facilitate the type of change she’s talking about? Or do we need to first promote love, respect and understanding to really get to the root of the problem (which to me sounds like a larger societal issue of heterosexism)? Although she does end her talk on that point about justice and love, she does indeed posit some more concrete suggestions of systems that promote understanding and respect. For example, she suggests creating safe spaces (free from gender binaries) for transgender people to express themselves.

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  2. I agree with both Tiffany and yourself, in that the suggestion of love seems like an ambiguous notion that doesn’t lead to any clear plan of action for addressing this problem. Maybe our difficulty with accepting this idea as an adequate course of action is due to our location in a society that prizes empirical and official policy changes that are backed by experts and officials, instead of taking responsibility and initiatives on a personal level to make larger-scale shifts in the knowledge and attitudes? Just thinking aloud, and trying to see why this idea of just being loving and respectful of differences that depart from societal norms seems to come up short.
    I think that some of the difficulty might also stem from the intersectional and compounding variables of discrimination rooted in transphobia, racism, and misogyny as you’ve touched upon. Thinking about how serious and harmful these inequalities are in society does make it challenging to see how one somewhat simplistic idea can be an overarching solution to so many historically embedded phenomenon.

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  3. I liked how you included the statistics at the beginning of your second paragraph, because it really emphasized how significant this problem truly is within the population of trans women of colour. Although I knew this was a big problem, I didn’t know how big until reading those numbers. I think that you used the term violence as a lens really well in relation to what Laverne Cox is trying to get across. Good job relating back to the intersection between different groups and different issues and noting that the problem really is one that was created by our society just as the problem of racism was.

    I think it was good how you provided a challenge to what Laverne Cox suggested as a way to end these problems, however, I feel like she does have a point. Shouldn’t the simplest way to eliminate the spread of hate, be to promote the spread of love?

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  4. Having done my blog post on Laverne Cox I really relate to the arguments that you have made. I really agree with you that more than just love must be spread in order to solve the issues that surround the trans community. I know from my personal experience with this article there was simply a lack of knowledge about the trans community.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2998530/I-throw-nervous-weeks-Golden-Globe-winner-Jeffrey-Tambor-opens-life-changing-role-playing-transgender-woman-TV-Transparent.html This is an article about Jeffrey Tambor who plays a transgender woman on the show transparent. In this article he says:

    “I had thought about it but there was leagues of area where I did not know things and continue not to know things. We know that there’s huge phobia and there’s huge hatred… there’s a high suicide rate in the transgender community. And there’s also huge assaults and job loss… It’s important,”

    I think what Jeffrey Tambor says only reiterates the points we have all been making, that we need to clear the divide, get rid of the mystery or lack of understanding surrounding the trans community in order to start a movement of love and spur more legal action.

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