By Nika Shakhnazarova
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Laverne Cox spoke openly about her transition from a man to a woman, telling the SECU Arena audience at Towson University on Tuesday that she went through a lot of self-shame before finding her happy place.
During her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech organized by the Towson Center for Student Diversity, Cox shared her scarring childhood experiences, alongside her rise to fame, and her stand on the current president’s policies on the LGBTQ community.
Cox said her mother’s acceptance was her biggest concern during her transition.
“I stand here proudly claiming my womanhood tonight,” Cox said. “But what I had to go through to get here is something that almost broke me.”
The Emmy-winning actress mentioned her traumatizing experiences of growing up in a male body but feeling like the opposing gender. She said she was often mistreated and misunderstood, which consequently resulted in brutal bullying and physical abuse.
“I was chased home, beaten up and verbally abused on a daily basis,” Cox said. “I survived these dark days by living in my imagination.”
Cox said she did all she could to make it to New York City, where she imagined her life would sprout into a world of confidence, beauty and fame.
“When I made it to Marymount College in Manhattan, I knew this was the beginning of who I wanted to be,” Cox said. “The people I met in New York City were extraordinary, and they are the reason I am who I am today.”
The Orange is the New Black star’s words resonated within the listeners, as many members of the audience shed tears while listening to Cox’s unique journey, followed by a standing ovation for both the beginning and end of her speech.
“This event means a lot to our Towson LGBTQ community, as well as students who are just starting to learn about gender-sexual orientation,” said Mario Rodriguez, the associate director of student diversity and development at Towson. “We organize these events to provide our students with a lot of resources and awareness, so having Laverne speak today was something we were very excited about.”
Cox briefly touched on President Trump’s stand on the transgender community, criticizing the administration’s proposal to ban transgender service members from serving in the military.
“I’m angry, hurt and saddened that this is the world we live in today,” Cox said. “We, as the LGBTQ community, have come a long way, but there’s still a lot of work left to do.”
Transgender murders were also a substantial part of Cox’s speech, as she stated several statistics regarding the innocent killings of transgender people.
“I hear similar death stories every week,” said Cox. “Innocent trans lives being taken for simply the way those people feel about themselves is unjustifiable, and it makes me sick to see these people suffer.”
The speech generated discussions among the audience, as Cox sat down with Towson’s Associate Director of Cultural Competency Education Brian Jara, to further discuss the current stigma around the transgender community.
“Laverne’s acting, activism and advocacy is a great way of bringing all audiences together to be challenged of thinking in complex ways,” Jara said. “We hope that students are energized and inspired to take a more active role in monitoring their campus climate, their nearby communities, and to turn ideas into actions.”
Cox’s personal experiences and battles stimulated a series of questions on her live Twitter hashtag #AskLaverne, where many Towson students used this safe-space to find answers to their own questions.
“It was wonderful hearing Laverne speak to us tonight,” said Andrea Gomer, a senior at Towson. “Her words were so powerful, so inspiring and so motivating to the crowd, you could just sense the energy all around the room.”