A Minute With: Laverne Cox on 'Orange' and transgender activism

Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:44pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As sassy stylist Sophia Burset on Netflix's women's prison drama "Orange Is the New Black," actress Laverne Cox has marked a milestone in the portrayal of transgender characters and was the first transgender actress to land an acting Emmy nomination.

Now Cox is lending her voice to "The T Word," airing on Viacom Inc's youth-orientated MTV and Logo TV on Friday, a documentary profiling young transgender kids who transitioned in their teen years.

From 18-year-old Ari in New York and Kye, 24, the first transgender Division I basketball player, to 12-year-old Zoe in Los Angeles, each person discusses challenges encountered daily as a transgender teen.

Cox, 30, spoke to Reuters about lending her voice to "The T Word," what needs to change about portrayals of the transgender community in media and her dream role.

Q: What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the transgender community in media?

A: The biggest obstacle is that when people assume that trans people are always and only the gender we were assigned at birth. Most of the arguments against us having equal rights in the law and having our gender identities acknowledged has to do with the point of view that we're not really who we say we are. So we see that reflected in public policy that won't allow us to change our name or recognize health insurance or deny us jobs ....

What I wanted to do with this documentary is move the representation of trans people away from transition and surgery and body. Certainly our bodies matter but we are more than our bodies, and I wanted to move away from the focus on what body parts trans people have and what surgeries we have and haven't had. I believe those narratives have objectified trans people and sensationalized their identities.   Continued...

Laverne Cox from Netflix "Orange is the New Black" arrives at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles, California August 25, 2014.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files