Monday, April 6, 2015

Laverne Cox: Ain't I A Woman?

Source: Laverne Cox's Facebook Page
On Thursday, March 26th, I took in Laverne Cox's appearance at Mohawk College in Hamilton. The event was part of Ms Cox's Ain't I a Woman? lecture tour. I purchased "VIP" tickets for myself and a friend to attend a reception and photo op before the event. Ms Cox arrived late to the reception, causing some disruption of the photo op. A line up, formed inside The Arnie pub at Mohawk, was re-directed by staff to an adjacent venue. Overcrowding and poor lighting were the reasons given. I noted that the crowd gathered was larger than the 100 VIP tickets sold. In an odd twist of fate, we started out near the back of the line for photos, and ended up near the front.

Laverne and yours truly.

Alas, some ticket holders were turned away from the photo op as a result of the delay. Some in attendance were annoyed that we were instructed not to touch or shake hands with Ms Cox. I took no umbrage with this. Such restrictions are common, and I think it's a reasonable health precaution for someone meeting thousands of people during an exhausting tour.



"Ain't I A Woman?" comes from a speech by feminist, former slave, and abolitionist Sojourner Truth

I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman's rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal. I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am as strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart – why can't she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, – for we can't take more than our pint'll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don't know what to do. Why children, if you have woman's rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won't be so much trouble.



Time: The Transgender Tipping Point
Laverne's bio impressive. She doesn't give up her age, but allows that she began to transition sixteen years ago, a few years after college. In that time, she's worked as an actress, performer on reality television, producer and LGBTQIA+ advocate. From the OINTB Wiki

Cox is perhaps best known for portraying Sophia Burset in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. She is also known for appearing as a contestant on the first season of VH1's I Want to Work for Diddy, and for producing and co-hosting the VH1 makeover television series TRANSform Me. In April 2014, Cox was honored by GLAAD with its Stephen F. Kolzak Award for her work as an advocate for the transgender community. On June 9, 2014, Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine.

Source: OINTB Wiki





Apparently, Laverne's mom did agree to send Ms Cox to the school board therapist. The eight-year-old assumed everything said in the session -- including that she saw no difference between girls and boys -- was privileged communication. Like on TV. It wasn't. Alarmed, the therapist advised Laverne's mom that her "son" needed injections of testosterone, whereupon mum declined and bailed on further therapy. It's interesting to note that one of the transphobic myths that we encounter today is that young trans children are given HRT. They aren't. Hormone blockers can be prescribed to later to forestall puberty and secondary sex traits.


Here's a great video of her talk earlier in the week at Ryerson.





A few nuggets from her speech:

On growing up trans, and gender dysphoria...
“I was expected to act like a boy because they said I was a boy. In sixth grade, I started going through puberty and it was tough, because I didn’t want to grow up and become a man.”

On internalized oppression...
"I internalized a tremendous amount of shame. I did not want to grow up and turn into a man. The idea was terrifying to me."
"I became my own bully."
"Often we don't know what to do with that pain and so we take it out on each other."
"Hurt people hurt people."

On transphobia and transmisogyny.
“Calling a trans woman a man is an act of violence. Pronouns matter.” "The system that we live under treats us as if our lives don't matter."
"Far too often the murders of trans people go unsolved."

On identity and intersecting identities...
"If people look at me and can tell I'm transgender, that's great because that's beautiful."
"I'm not just one thing and neither are you."

On justice...
"As Dr Cornell West reminds us, 'Justice is what love looks like in public.'"

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