Last week, GLAAD staff conducted a training on transgender issues with TakePart producers and journalists, and yesterday, they invited Laverne Cox to chat about her character, Sophia Burset, on Orange is the New Black as well as transgender issues with TakePart Live hosts, Jacob Soboroff and Meghan McCain, who is also a member of GLAAD's National Board of Directors,
When Soboroff asked about her journey with her mother, Cox said:
[My mother] had difficulty with pronouns and with getting used to calling me a different name and accepting me as her daughter. And eventually she did and it took a lot of difficult conversations, but we had those conversations with a lot of love and a lot of empathy and I’m really, really proud of her and she’s proud of me.
When asked about her role on Orange is the New Black, Cox said:
Our writers are so brilliant, and I think they do a really good job of making Sophia just one of the girls. She has specific issues that relate to her being trans, but she deals with the same things everybody else deals with. She's incarcerated, she has a family on the outside, she's negotiating, like, how does she have a relationship with that family still. That's universal, that's not a trans issue, that's just a human issue.
The hosts also talk about violence and injustice against transgender people, especially with Cox's production of a documentary, Free CeCe, about CeCe McDonald, a transgender woman who was arrested and incarcerated for 19 months in a men's prison for defending herself in an assault against her. The district attorney had allowed self-defense claims in the past, but not for CeCe.
CeCe's case is one of many, and as the 2013 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) indicates, 72% of homicide victims last year were transgender women. 89% of all homicide victims were people of color. The NVACP report indicates that transgender survivors are almost 4% more likely to experience police violence and seven times more likely to face physical violence even when reporting victimization to police. Cox follows up by saying that transgender women face violence from the general population but are also criminalized by the police, and she hopes that Free CeCe will raise awareness about some of the harsh realities facing trans people.