No Emmy for Laverne Cox, but She’s Still Winning

The ‘Orange Is the New Black’ actor went from shame to stardom.
Aug 18, 2014·
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

When Laverne Cox was in third grade, she says that her teacher told her mom, "Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress if we don't get him into therapy right away."

In this beautiful eight-minute film, Cox discusses growing up bullied, suicidal, and ashamed in Mobile, Ala., and how she stopped fighting her true self and did end up wearing a dress in New Orleans.

"As an actor, I have to deal with my own feelings and be truthful so that I can give that to a character. A lot of my life and what's gotten better for me has been about me letting go and just breathing," Cox said.

The video is part of the "It Got Better" series, in which famous out celebrities—including Jane Lynch, George Takei, and Jason Collins—offer glimpses into their childhoods and their experiences coming out.

Cox landed an Emmy nomination for her role as Sofia, a transgender woman struggling to maintain health care and family ties while in prison, in the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black. That she didn't win doesn't matter. Her breakout stardom has coincided with an incredible moment of visibility for transgender people.

Cox also appeared in a segment on ABC News on Aug. 17 in which Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, explained that while "the culture's changing really, really fast," trans people still face extreme discrimination and violence.

While watching Cox's star ascend, it's important not to lose sight of the ongoing struggle. As Keisling pointed out, "we had one of our worst months of transgender murders this past June." Women killed this summer were Tiffany Edwards of Ohio, Zoraida Reyes in California, Kandy Hall of Maryland, and Yaz'min Shancez in Florida.