Laverne Cox, the Emmy-nominated actress who co-stars in the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black, on Thursday took her message about trans acceptance to University of Miami.
“I think if we are serious about ending the bullying of our LGBT youth in this country, we have to begin to create spaces of gender self-determination for everyone,” Cox told students at UM.
Cox, recently made headlines for being the first African-American transgender woman to appear on the cover of Time magazine, and for her role as Sophia Burset on Orange Is the New Black.
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As part of a diversity week celebration, UM’s Unity Roundtable presented “Ain’t I a Woman: My Journey to Womanhood,” which is Cox’s personal story of how she transitioned to the woman she is today.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, Cox was often bullied by her peers because of the way she expressed her gender.
Society defines gender identities as male and female. Cox said this gender binary system forces us to take on “gender policing,” and if it didn’t exist, people could express themselves freely and authentically.
“It took me a lot of years to fully internalize the fact that someone can tell that I am transgender and that is a beautiful thing — that being trans is beautiful and should be celebrated,” she said.
Cox ended her speech by encouraging everyone to empower themselves to be vulnerable, and to create safe spaces where they can make mistakes and take risks.
Jacob Rudolph, 20, president of UPride, UM’s undergraduate LGBT youth organization on campus, closed the evening by embracing Cox’s speech.
“If anything Laverne has really reified for us the power of love and the power to community,” Rudolph said.
University of Miami has an impassioned and dedicated student community eager to make the campus a more accepting and inclusive place.
“As this organization president I can say from the bottom of my heart that if you are gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, bisexual, asexual, gender queer, a straight alley or anything in the rainbow, you are welcomed at UPride,” he said.