As viewers nestle into the highly popular and well crafted Netflix series, Orange Is The New Black
, actress Laverne Cox
is proving that being and playing trans is deserving of more than a TV parody.
The actress says her role on Orange Is The New Black
is a new direction for her and television. A ceiling has been broken for trans people playing trans people that has broken stereotypes on screen. Television shows have previously reserved the role of drug addict or prostitute for trans characters. "I’ve literally played a prostitute about seven times," Laverne told Buzzfeed
Laverne is quick to combat trans stereotypes and television's love affair with typecasting. In the Buzzfeed interview she noted that while there are trans sex workers out there, not all trans people are on the streets. "There are trans women who are doctors, and lawyers, and nurses, and mothers, and sisters, and convicts," she notes.
Ultimately, what Cox is out to prove is that trans people have the same motivations, life circumstances and life dramas as everyone else. It's television that needed to catch up and there's no better start than with Weeds
creator Jenji Kohan.
Kohan is known for turning out perceptions on their heads by favoring meek looking white women as criminals and minority characters as intellectually complex, particularly in her long running cable series Weeds
. Kohan has reached new heights with Orange Is The New Black
, set inside of a women's correctional facility and based on Piper Kerman’s memoir. Where violence typically dominates most prison dramas, Kohen's rendition features the complexities of these women's lives, complete with empathy for them and the circumstances that led them there. Cox's character, Sophia, is a post-transition
trans woman, adds a particularly layered touch to the series.
Pre-transition, Sophia was a firefighter, that was aided and supported through her gender reassignment by her wife. The couple stays together to continue raising their son. Tensions continue to build as Sophia tries to balance the guilt of leaving her wife and son behind while trying to maintain her gender identity and preserve what she's worked (and stole) for.
The seriousness of Cox's character breaks a glass ceiling for trans women. Sophia isn't the caricature, the other inmates try and box her into. She also defies the idea of gender confusion. If anything, Sophia is accused of being selfish by the wife who loves her. However, she remains a highly complex character that asks at one point, while talking to a religious inmate, why God didn't bless her with the right parts.
"I'm Good With Myself" Laverne Tells Gawker
The role suits Cox well. As a trans activist the humanistic touch to the series aids her cause to being awareness to the real-life circumstances that surround trans women of color. The show, although a career booster for Cox, is sign of her ambition for her causes and personal success.
Laverne Cox attracted media attention several years ago as a contestant on the VH1 reality competition, I Want To Work For Diddy
Cox, a Mobile, Alabama native, studied dance at Marymount Manhattan College where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
Since, she's made guest appearances on Law and Order: SVU
and Bored To Death
. She's been featured on an MTV news special with Britney Houston and a campaign for Swiss skin care line I Am. She's also starred in the independent films, The Kings of Brooklyn
and Daughter of Arabia
Cox is the one to watch in upcoming episodes of Orange Is The New Black
and in entertainment. Along with Nelsan Ellis, who plays gender queer Lafayette on HBO's True Blood
, Laverne Cox is proving that gender is more, or perhaps less, than we think. That despite the glamour of an exterior, trans men and women are layered with the same human experiences as everyone else. It's good to see TV open up to this reality.