Remember when this happened?
Can we all just keep talking about how ridiculously amazing Laverne Cox is? Aaaaaaaand…GO!
The boundary-crossing star of Orange is the New Black was the name on everyone’s lips in 2014. From her blasting Katie Couric’s questions to the cover of Time Magazine, she’s been nothing but fearless, tireless, and the epitomy of class and grace.
And now she’s here, in little ol’ Sea-Town. She’ll be at the UW campus Tuesday night, the 5th, talking to the generation that matters most in social change. “An Evening with Laverne Cox” promises to be enlightening, powerful, and altogether charming as she continues to sweep the nation with the most poignant dialogue trans* people have been trying to create for years.
I had the opportunity to speak recently with a transwoman named Andy. She’s a nerdy stand-up comedian in a relationship with a “transdude,” as she put it. There were attempts to reach out to more trans* people to gain more viewpoints, but to no avail. Due to the failure of recording devices, I will not be using direct quotes.
Korra Q: Have you felt excluded from the LGBTQ community at all since moving here?
Andy: There have been moments, yes. As a DJ I know a lot of gay men in the area, and my background in music from disco to House helps me make friends among fellow DJs who play at gay clubs. But at Pride there are times when I feel like the women (I don’t like to use “cis”) might not view me as one of them. And sometimes guys just don’t know how to approach me. So not specifically excluded, but I’d say it’s been mostly normal awkwardness in society in general.
KQ: Have you found it difficult to find a trans* community here?
A: Not particularly. I’ve gone to various groups, but the trans* community here seems to be pretty sectioned and scattered. There are different groups with different agendas, and I try to keep an open mind about all of them. I try to use my comedy and DJing to be a voice for the unheard, so I like to hear all viewpoints. I’m still learning and getting used to all-inclusive language, using “they” and “them” when I don’t know how someone wants to be called, and trying to keep up on all of the issues.
KQ: Have you faced violence or adversity, directly, because of your trans* status?
A: Thankfully, I haven’t experienced too much. But then, I’m a white person from Baltimore. I’m not strictly well-off, but I make enough to get by. So when I can “pass” for a white girl walking down the street, it seems like I have less of a likelihood of something happening to me. Sad to say, but that’s what I’ve experienced so far. But violence towards trans* people is still a HUGE issue, and I would hope that I can use my comedy or other outlets to advocate for those who face far worse situations. The murder rate and suicide rates (the numbers escape me) are not ok. Cases like Leelah Alcorn and Kandy Hall stick out in my mind and make me want to do better.
KQ: What do you think of the increasing visibility of trans* people in the media, such as Laverne Cox and the show Transparent?
A: I think it’s great! As long as the characters stay positive and the writing remains true to what happens with trans* people in real life, I hope it continues. Movies and TV have a long history of making gender-changing people a punchline, and I know I’m not alone when I say we’re sick of it. There was a rash of films from the ’70s to the early ’90s that made it seem like all trans* people were nothing but baiting psychopaths, the worst of which was The Crying Game and The Silence of the Lambs. Those films did nothing to create the idea that we’re real people and deserving of love and respect and help, and created a stigma that we’ve been trying so hard to fight ever since. I mean, some trans* people are not okay with Transparent because they think the main character should be played by a real transperson, but sometimes there’s no helping what producers and directors have to work with. There aren’t many trans* actors out there to begin with, so I’m sure it would be difficult for any casting director to find any trans* actor, let alone one good enough to play a specific role. So personally I don’t nitpick about that, and the show is really funny. Also, Steven Universe seems to be rising in popularity; some trans* people I know really like it, but I haven’t seen much of it yet.
KQ: So would you say you look up to Laverne Cox and she’s overall good for the community?
A: Oh absolutely. We’ve never had an advocate like her, and I only hope I can do something similar. Besides being easy on the eyes, she’s really smart and knows what she’s talking about. She doesn’t give up. And it’s even more important that she’s advocating for trans* people of color, who face much worse violence, abuse, and suicide risk than other communities. I mean even if she’s just the hot topic right now, at least she’s bringing respect to the trans* community, which is something we’ve all been trying to do since forever.
KQ: Will you be going to the Translations Film Festival? What do you hope people take away from it?
A: Well now I will! I think it’s awesome that the festival exists and we can see ourselves on the big screen portrayed in positive ways, and for once to see our stories told. It might be a while before a mainstream movie takes us seriously, but at least this is a start.
KQ: What’s the one thing you want people who are not trans* to understand about trans* people?
A: Take it easy, and take the time to learn. We are people too, and deserve just as much respect as the next person. If you don’t know something or don’t know how to act or what to say, just ask. You can ask honest questions when you have an open mind, and we’ll respect you more for trying to learn rather than blindly judging what you don’t comprehend. If you’re not comfortable, at least don’t be an ass.
We spoke more on the future of trans* issues and exposure in the media, and it was quite the eye-opening experience because I don’t have many trans* people in my life. Having spoken with Andy, I can honestly feel less sad about not attending Cox’s lecture/Q&A. Thank you, Andy!
What’s appropo is that Cox will be here two days before the opening of the Translations Film Fest on May 7. If you have tickets to see her, I commend you and hope the chat is everything you’ll love and appreciate. Or, at the very least, it’ll tide you over till OITNB starts up again in June.
And now, your moment of zen: