On April 15, Allure magazine released its annual nude feature. Included in it amongst stars such as Jordana Brewster, Katheryn Winnick and Nicole Beharie is Laverne Cox, a transgender actress of color known first and foremost for her brilliant work as Sophia in “Orange is the New Black.”
Certainly, Cox’s feature in the spread is pretty historic — never before have we seen a transgender actress so much in the spotlight, embracing her body with complete confidence.
Cox wasn’t so sure about posing nude when Allure first approached her, she told the magazine, but eventually she agreed, and the reasons she cited are inspiring.
“I said no initially, thought about it, and said no again. But I’m a black transgender woman. I felt this could be really powerful for the communities that I represent,” Cox told Allure. “Black women are not often told that we’re beautiful unless we align with certain standards. Trans women certainly are not told we’re beautiful. Seeing a black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about herself might be inspiring to some other folks.”
Cox’s words and prominence could not be more important right now, as violence against trans women of color occurs daily and no one really pays attention.
According to a report by the Transgender Violence Tracking Portal, in the first four months of 2014, there were 102 acts of violence across 14 countries worldwide committed against transgender people. A 2012 report discovered that 53 percent of anti-LGBTQ homicides that year were committed against transgender women, and 75 percent of all anti-LGBTQ homicides that year were committed against people of color.
Cox, along with other trans activists such as Janet Mock, has been working tirelessly to promote activism and social change among the trans community. Cox has toured many universities and colleges, attempting to educate audiences about the struggles trans women — especially trans women of color — endure daily.
It is imperative that we realize that if we want to continue to call ourselves feminists and social justice warriors, we must be aware and include all struggles in our fight. Applauding Cox for posing nude for Allure Magazine is simply the first step. Being ignorant of transgender oppression is not something that we can afford to continue — the statistics and death rates are simply too high.
Finally, it’s fantastic that we can say we have trans icons in the media who are making leaps and bounds for trans visibility. I don’t think that 10 years ago we would be saying the same thing. However, just as with every other movement, just because we’ve come so far, does not mean we do not have a long journey ahead.
I’m excited to see Cox continue her successful career and activism for trans people, and I’m even more excited to see mainstream movements begin to accept and support trans people as the years progress. It’s time to start paying attention.