Laverne Cox Safe After Transphobic Attack: “It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are”

“It doesn’t matter who you are. You can be Laverne Cox—whatever that means—and if you’re trans … you’re gonna experience stuff like this.”

Laverne Cox Safe After Transphobic Attack: "It Doesn’t Matter Who You Are"
Laverne Cox speaks to a sold out crowd for her national ‘Ain’t I a Woman?’ speaking tour on Monday, October 6 in Columbia, Mo., in October 2014. (KOMUnews / Flickr)

On Saturday, via Instagram live, actor and activist Laverne Cox announced she and a friend had experienced a transphobic attack while walking in Griffith Park, Los Angeles.

In the video, Cox describes being approached by a man, who aggressively asked for the time and then said, “Guy or girl?” before physically assaulting Cox’s friend. Cox and her friend are both safe.

“I look back, and I’m like, what is happening?” Cox said Saturday. “The guy is hitting my friend. My friend is going towards him. And I’m like, ‘Holy s—,’ and I pull out my phone and call 911 … All of the sudden, it’s over and the guy is gone.”

In the video, she describes feeling triggered and in shock, and being reminded of her experiences of childhood bullying and street harassment in New York.


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“This has happened to me before,” she said. “I’ve been trans my whole life. I’ve been harassed and bullied my whole life. None of this is new, but it’s still just kind of like, ‘Who cares?’ and then ‘Why do you need to be aggressive?’”

She elaborated in a follow-up video posted Monday:

“The body doesn’t know if a trauma happened 20 years ago. When you’re triggered, your body experiences the trauma as if it’s happening right now. So what happened on Saturday isn’t just about what happened on Saturday. What happened on Saturday was also about what happened in 2008, when I was kicked on the street. What happened in 2001, 2, 3, 4, 5 when I was harassed on a train, or walking down the street, when I was beaten up by groups of kids when I was a kid myself. So what happened on Saturday triggered all of that. Those triggers are there… all that trauma patterning was deeply activated in that moment.”

The attack on Cox comes in a year that has broken records for the numbers of murders of trans people. Trans people have also faced an increase in legal violence in 2020, with a new spate of bills and legal battles targeting, among other things, the rights of trans youth to seek life-saving gender affirming care, and the rights of trans girls to play on women’s sports teams. Many similar bills will be up for debate in statehouses nationwide in 2021.

Cox has previously used her platform to uplift trans voices and spread awareness about violence against trans people and trans women in particular. She made history as the first out trans actress to win an Emmy in 2014, and this year she was executive producer, as well as appearing in “Disclosure,” a documentary covering the complex history of trans representation in film and media, and the (often violent) real-world implications of on-screen representation.

In Monday’s follow-up, she thanked everyone for their “beautiful, loving messages” and support. Cox also said she had been in contact with the Los Angeles Police Department about the incident, and that while she’s aware that “our communities have a very complicated relationship with the police,” it was her hope that “when something like this happens to a trans person who is not famous, that they’ll be treated just as kindly and as generously” as she was by the LAPD.

“It’s not safe in the world, and I don’t like to think about that a lot, but it’s the truth, that it’s not safe if you are a trans person,” she said in the video. “Obviously, I know this well. It’s just really sad.”

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About

Oliver Haug is a social media editor and podcast producer with Ms. magazine. They are also a freelance journalist, focusing on LGBTQ+ issues and sexual politics. Their writing has previously appeared in Bitch Magazine, them.us, the New York Times' newsletter "The Edit," and elsewhere. You can read more of their work at oliverhaug.contently.com, and follow them on Twitter @cohaug.