Orange is the new black, and Laverne Cox is the new face of a movement.
The actress — best known as Sophia on Netflix’s hit prison dramedy — is on the cover of the latest issue of Time, accompanied by the cover line “The Transgender Tipping Point.”
While the full cover story — which “examines the radical rise in awareness of transgender Americans and how this movement is reshaping our definitions of gender” — isn’t yet online, Time has an extended Q&A up on their website, in which writer Katy Steinmetz talks with Cox. (The cover and interview come a month after Time made waves by not including Cox in its annual list of the world’s most influential people, despite overwhelming online support for her.)
While not shooting Orange, Cox is on the road giving a stump speech of sorts at various events called “Ain’t I A Woman?” Through her work, she’s become the face for a movement pushing for greater transgender equality. In the Q&A, Cox discusses her childhood, her suicide attempt in sixth grade, and how she thinks American attitudes toward transgender people have changed.
“My third grade teacher called my mom and said ‘Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress,'” Cox explains. “Up until that point, I just thought that I was a girl and that there was no difference between girls and boys. I think in my imagination I thought that I would hit puberty and I would start turning into a girl.”
And here’s Cox on how things have changed for today’s trans community: “There’s a way to connect through the Internet that I didn’t have. So you can connect with people who are like you, who may be in another part of the country. That didn’t exist when I was a kid. I think there are more media representations that young trans people can look to and say, that’s me, in an affirming way. 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, okay, 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.”
When it comes to full acceptance for trans folk, Cox understands that we’ve got a long way to go. “We live in an uncertain world and we want to believe that what a man is and what a woman is — I know that. And people don’t want to critically interrogate the world around them,” she says. “Whenever I’m afraid of something or I’m threatened by something, it’s because it brings up some sort of insecurity in me. I think the reality is that most of us are insecure about our gender.”
Read Cox’s full Q&A with Time here — and check out this sweet video of Cox meeting a six-year-old fan after one of her speeches.