Trans actress Laverne Cox: ‘A preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people’

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A transgender actress has made headlines this week with a response to questions about her transition and surgery.

Laverne Cox, star of Orange is the New Black, appeared alongside transgender model Carmen Carrera in an interview with Katie Couric when they were both asked about transitioning and gender reassignment surgery.

First Carrera was asked about her experiences of transition and surgery, to which she said it was personal and she did not wish to discuss it.

Then when the question was posed to her, Cox used the opportunity to address why it is important to discuss issues like identity, discrimination and anti-trans violence, rather than having a “preoccupation” with gender reassignment surgery and transitioning.

She said: “I do feel there is a preoccupation with that. The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people. And then we don’t get to really deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often we are targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the national average; if you are a trans person of colour, that rate is four times the national average. The homicide rate is highest among trans women. If we focus on transition, we don’t actually get to talk about those things.”

She has since expressed her thanks for the emotional and wide-reaching response which came from the interview.

In a statement she said: “I am so deeply moved by the dialogues that are happening around my appearance with Carmen Carrera on “The Katie Show” on Monday.  It is my dream that by highlighting the deep humanity of trans people’s lives in the media, elevating actual trans voices to speak the truth of our lived experiences in ways that don’t sensationalize and objectify us, those human voices and stories can be a part of the disruption needed to end the disproportionate injustices that threaten so many trans people’s lives, particularly the lives of trans women of colour. ”

“It is a state of emergency for far too many trans people across this country.  The stories of women like Islan Nettles and CeCe McDonald are far too commonplace in our community.  I look forward to engaging in more dialogues about the complicated intersectional issues around these injustices and ways to make them a thing of the past.  I am so grateful to Katie Couric and her show for the opportunity to highlight these important issues.”

Cox in August reflected on her role in hit Netflix series Orange is the New Black, to say that she was “grateful” for the role to have come her way, and spoke of the challenge it offer to her, saying she was one of the most “complicated” characters she had taken on.