Last night, Laverne Cox, best known for her role as trans* inmate Sophia Burset on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, spoke to a standing room only crowd at Vanderbilt University. Rain and traffic did not deter students and community members alike from attending as all seats were filled prior to the 7 p.m. start time. Members from Nashville Black Pride, Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) and Street Works' Project UNO were on hand.
Cox took the stage at shortly after seven to thunderous applause.
Cox's speech, entitled Ain't I A Woman, centered upon the intersection of class, race and gender that has affected Cox's life. In her speech, Cox told audiences about growing up in Alabama with very little financial resources, her struggles against bullying from teachers and peers as she expressed herself with gender nonconformity and spoke about the daily struggles faced by trans* individuals and trans* women of color.
The speech served as a reminder that our differences are what makes us special and should be celebrated and more importantly discussed in an open manner to encourage acceptance. "We all have a vested interested in making sure that everyone has gender freedom; that everyone is able to express their gender in ways that feel most authentic to them. I think that will give space for trans* identities to exist in a better space," said Cox.
Cox followed her speech with a thoughtful Q&A. The spectrum of audience members represented a diverse intersection of academia, trans* individuals, students and more. Cox fielded questions about her experience in church, her experiences on set for Orange is the New Black and even about dating.
After the Q&A, Cox stayed for a meet & greet with audience members.