Laverne Cox Endured Bullying, Shame on the Road to Success

Friday, May 30, 2014
Laverne Cox Endured Bullying, Shame on the Road to Success
Orange is the New Black' star Laverne Cox on the the cover of Time as the face of 'The Transgender Tipping Point.'

-- Life was not easy growing up in Mobile, Alabama, for "Orange Is the New Black" star Laverne Cox.

The transgender star spoke with Time magazine for its cover story "The Transgender Tipping Point."

Cox said from a very young age, she wanted to dance and be creative.

"I begged my mother to put me into dance classes and finally, in third grade, she did. Tap and jazz but not ballet. She thought ballet was too gay. ... Throughout all of that, I was very feminine and I was really bullied, majorly bullied," she said. "I was also taunted at school. I was called names. I was made fun of."

Cox described one particular situation in junior high in which she got chased by a group of kids.

"The second we got off the bus, they would try to beat me up," Cox said. "So I'd have to start running, immediately. So that day I was running for my life, basically, and four or five kids caught me. They were in the band. And I remember being held down and hit with drumsticks by these kids."

See: Netflix Releases 'Orange Is the New Black' Season 2 Trailer

Before that, Cox said, she went to therapy at a young age after a teacher called her mom and said, "Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress."

"Going to a therapist and the fear of God being placed in me about ending up in New Orleans wearing a dress, that was a profoundly shaming moment for me. I associated it with being some sort of degenerate, with not being successful," she said. "My mother was a teacher. She was grooming my brother and me to be successful, accomplished people. I didn't associate being trans, or wearing a dress, with that, or wanting to be a girl with being successful. So it's something I just started to push down. I wanted to be famous, I wanted to perform. Those things I really, really wanted more than anything else."

The shame got so bad that in the sixth grade, Cox tried to end it all.

"I was going through puberty. During puberty, the attraction for other boys got really strong," she added. "And I learned in church that was a sin. I imagined that my grandmother was looking down on me and that she knew what I was thinking, because she's in Heaven. I just imagined that I was disappointing her and it just was devastating for me. So I went to the medicine cabinet and got a bottle of pills. And took them. And swallowed them. And went to sleep, hoping not to wake up. And I did wake up, with a really bad stomachache. I don't remember what the pills were. Whatever it was, I thought that they would kill me but they didn't."

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With a brother she was only "close-ish" to and a mother who struggled to put food on the table for her two kids, Cox said her saving grace was her vivid imagination.

Now, Cox is bring a character to her show that other young kids can relate to and know they are not alone.

"I think there are more media representations that young trans people can look to and say, 'That's me,' in an affirming way," she said. "There's just so many resources out there now that it makes you feel like you're less alone and gives some sort of sense of, OK, this is who I am and this is what I'm going through, as opposed to being 'What the f*** is wrong with me?' That was what I grew up with."

Cox also had some advice for people judging anyone who is transgender.

"All these designations are based on a penis, however many inches that is, and then a vagina," she said. "And that's supposed to say all these different things about who people are. When you think about it, it's kind of ridiculous. People need to be willing to let go of what they think they know about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman."

But through it all, Cox is happy now and inspiring others to live their life.

"I'm so busy and I'm living my dream. I feel like myself and I feel pretty integrated, like the person that I am inside is who the world is seeing, which feels calming," she said.

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