Transgender activist and award-winning actress. A cultural icon and leading face of the trans rights movement, inspiring trans youth all over the world.
Featured lessonCelebrating and Defending Trans and Non-Binary Lives
Laverne Cox was born in 1972 in Mobile, Alabama, and she and her identical twin brother were raised by a single mother and grandmother. At age 11, Cox attempted suicide—she was developing feelings for her male classmates and being bullied for not acting “the way someone assigned male at birth was supposed to act.”
Cox appeared in her first film during senior year at Marymount Manhattan College. During that time, she went from being gender-nonconforming to starting her medical transition and living and identifying as female. She often found herself performing in drag shows in the nightclub scene and auditioning for, and booking, trans roles. She also auditioned for agents and casting directors without disclosing that she was trans, because she wanted to lead with her talent and still felt a great deal of shame.
In 2012, Cox booked the show that would change her life, “Orange Is the New Black.” Her breakout role as Sophia Burset in the acclaimed Netflix series brought her to the attention of diverse audiences all over the world. She became the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for a primetime acting Emmy Award and the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television series.
Cox has continued to break down barriers, appearing in other TV shows, hitting national news, and expanding her presence with groundbreaking roles. She appeared in the Golden Globe-nominated film “Promising Young Woman” and is in production on Shonda Rhimes’ limited Netflix series “Inventing Anna.” Cox is also an Emmy-winning producer, and her documentary “Disclosure,” which she executive produced, was named among the 100 best documentaries of all time by Vogue. “Disclosure” gives an unprecedented look at the depiction of trans characters throughout the history of film and television.
As a popular and venerated media and cultural icon, Laverne Cox brings trans struggles to the forefront of U.S. and global mainstream news. She encourages moving beyond gender expectations to live more authentically and is the first openly transgender person to appear on the covers of Time, British Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Essence, and more. She also proudly holds two SAG Awards, winning them with her “Orange Is the New Black” castmates.
“My life changed when I realized I deserve to be seen, to dream, to be fully included, always striving to bring my full humanity.”
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