Laverne Cox: trans people see ‘cis people playing us over and over again’

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With the success of Ryan Murphy’s Pose and shows like Transparent (before the Jeffrey Tambor issue), trans actors are becoming increasingly more visible in the entertainment industry, but they’ve still got quite a way to go.

Orange is the New Black‘s Laverne Cox took part in a round table discussion for Variety to discuss the current state of affairs for trans actors and how the entertainment industry can improve representation. Laverne was joined by fellow trans actors Chaz Bono, Alexandra Billings and Trace Lysette from Transparent, Jen Richards from Nashville (RIP) and Brian Michael from Queen Sugar. Interestingly, Variety revealed that Ryan Murphy didn’t want the stars of Pose to “do press around transgender-related issues.” The discussion is insightful and Laverne, as always, has some profound things to say. Here are some highlights:

On Pose:
“What I think is going on now that’s really exciting for me, though, is I feel like Pose has changed the game. It’s a shame that there’s no one from the show here today.I sat and watched the first episode and I just cried, because I knew this talent existed. It felt revolutionary. I said to myself, ‘This proves that we can do the job, that we can lead shows, that we can write, that we can direct. We can tell our own stories, and it can be brilliant. This is going to change the game.’”

On cis actors playing transgender roles:
“I think if all things were equal, then everyone should be able to play every character. But all things are not equal. As an artist, I don’t ever want someone telling me that I shouldn’t play something. But the reality is, 84% of Americans do not personally know someone who is transgender. So most Americans learn what they learn about trans people through the media. Right now in this country, in the first days of this year, 10 states introduced 21 pieces of legislation targeting trans people, mostly trying to limit our ability to go to the bathroom. The current president is trying to ban us from the military. Our unemployment rate is three times the national average. So in this cultural environment, when we see representations of cis people playing us over and over again, that reinforces the idea that trans women are not really women and trans men are not really men and nonbinary people don’t exist. That is the basis of the discrimination that trans people experience.”

On her fears about the current administration:
“For the trans community, with our previous president so much progress really happened, and most of the progress has been rolled back. So what scares me for kids is that there really are no protections in schools. In places like Mississippi, there are states with laws that are criminalizing trans folks. I’m worried there’s no recourse now. I’m worried there’s no protection.”

On the future for trans actors:
“We just want more opportunities. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met over the years who said, “I didn’t think it was possible for me to be an actor, and then I saw you on TV.” Now there’s a generation of trans kids coming up who think that it’s possible for them to be openly trans and actually have a career as an actor. It’s really exciting.”

[From Variety]

The whole discussion is quite interesting, and definitely worth a read. I do hope that the tides has changed for actors like Laverne and Chaz (who I would have loved to see return to American Horror Story, but his character met quite a tragic fate last season. Come on, Ryan, find a new role for him!) I’m remaining cautiously optimistic here.

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26 Responses to “Laverne Cox: trans people see ‘cis people playing us over and over again’”

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  1. InquisitiveNewt says:

    Love Laverne. She’s the full package – excellent actor, advocate, public speaker and human being. I think so many forget, in our Liberal age (or the liberal-conservative dichotomy that positively mandates what your position must be on every issue) just how distressing it is to be marginalised and wholly misunderstood. That the trans community is grasping, demanding, vexatious simply because they don’t wish to be shoehorned into a neat little box marked “other”. Cox would be a fine politician – one actually inspired by justice rather than greed; I hope she’ll run for office one day.

    • magnoliarose says:

      Yes to everything.

    • TandemBikeEscapee says:

      I had such negative exposure to trans people through living in a small community w sole exposure from movies- pet detective, silence of the lambs- I was genuinely afraid trans ppl were mentally unstable for many years. I never voiced my opinon or harassed anyone, thank God- I staying in the same town where I grew up. When I saw Laverne Cox’s character in OITNB, it genuinely opened my eyes and heart. I am a parent now, and raise my kids w LGBTQ awareness. Plus at age 40 I went back to college and have a more rounded understanding of current social issues. I wonder if Laverne Cox realizes she truly is part of an humanitarian overhaul? I can’t be the only person to gain understanding through her choice in roles and advocacy?

  2. Clare says:

    More Laverne Cox
    Less Caitlyn Jenner

    That’s all I got.

  3. Wasger says:

    Right. It’s called acting… must have been shocking for Ms. Cox when she found out the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park aren’t really dinosaurs.

    • Erinn says:

      And – how amazing – there are trans actors out there. It’s almost like THEY should be playing the role.

      And come on now – that’s a stupid comparison. They CGI’d in something that doesn’t exist today. There’s literally no dinosaurs out there. There are, however, trans actors out there. If that’s the line you’re going with, maybe we should just CGI all actors and we’ll never have a problem.

      • hunter says:

        Not very many though. If you assume there is one trans person for every thousand cis-gendered actors (M & F), and of every thousand actors, only 30 are talented thesbians, well you’d have to search pretty far and wide to find those 30 talented individuals much less the 1000 trans people to choose them from.

        It’s a numbers game and it’s not realistic to overlook that.

    • Missy says:

      Stupid comparison

    • magnoliarose says:

      Ignorant on purpose or just a troll? I am fresh out of patience for people like you.

    • lara says:

      And where are the action heroes played by a transgender actor? The love interest in a romcom? Should be no problem since it is only acting.
      The day it is normal for a cisgender character to be played by a transgender actor, thats the day it is ok for for a transgender character to be played by a cisgerder actor.

  4. Slowsnow says:

    I am watching Sense8 and my daughter told me how relieved she was to find out that the trans character is trans in real life.
    I told her how conflicted I am about that as I believe an actor should be able to play any character as long as physically realistic but now I see that it is from a position of inequality that trans want to play trans.
    And I totally agree. Until work opportunities are equal cis people should back away from those roles.

  5. Nija says:

    While I’m glad that theres more trans-people in the business, you have to remember that its hard to find good actors from any group of people, and the trans community that acts might not be the biggest pool to pick from. English isn’t my best language so not sure if my point cam across.

    • Slowsnow says:

      If we tolerate pretty cis people who are terrible or one-note actors why not do it with trans people (assuming that’s true)? At least there is a political reason behind it instead of conforming to heteronormative or patriarchal notions of beauty.

      • Nija says:

        True true, i was just approaching it from my point of view and i don’t tolerate pretty but terrible actors 😀 But yes my point beside i do think its great to see more and more diversity.

        I’ve always been annoyed how gay men are shown in tv shows especially. It’s going to a better direction but now I’ve noticed a trend in which teen gays are shown popular and mean. You know like the mean blond cheerleader girl thing. But yeah that has nothing to do with the original comment so sorry 😀

      • Slowsnow says:

        @Nija, don’t apologise! It’s good to have these exchanges in order to advance and reflect. Thanks for your answer and yes, categorisation of gay or any minority is always a bad idea anyway. I think the point Laverne is making is that there is such unemployment in the trans community that until things are equal please give trans roles to trans people. It is also good on an education level: tv banalises and renders things uniform. For once that’s a good thing in that kind of “see, we’re like you” kinda outcome.

    • magnoliarose says:

      The fact that you can write English so well is impressive. No worries. 🙂
      I get what you are saying but it goes back to her point about inequality. If things were all equal then sure trans actors should be judged on talent only but we have a ways to go yet.

    • hunter says:

      I just made the same point above, I agree completely.

  6. Dizzy says:

    Read foutune100 last paragraph again. Not a terrible person. Very well said. I’m a live and let live kind of person but a transgendered woman is not a biological woman. That’s just science.

  7. amazing says:

    Remember when Laverne led a campaign to release a child rapist and murderer from prison? What an icon!

    • harpy says:

      Yeah the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (who was working on that nightmare) is a mess.

    • Shasha says:

      And Laverne also said that the child rapist should have been put into a women’s prison instead of a men’s prison because they were trans.

  8. Lisa says:

    I can’t really stand her (yes, I know. sorry.), but she has a point. I’m cis and I think there needs to be a change.