Laverne Cox knew she wanted to be a performer by the time she was in the third grade.
She said she found her inspiration from the movie “Gone With the Wind” and a fan she bought while on a field trip to Six Flags .
day of remembrance
Time: 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: The Pit
Info: There will be an event honoring all transgender people killed in the past year.
“I wanted to fan myself — I longed to fan myself like Scarlett O’Hara,” Cox said.
But after only a day of acting out her dreams at school, Cox said she was forced to go to the principal’s office, and her mother was called and warned about the consequences of letting her child, who was biologically a male, act like a girl.
Cox, who is a transgender woman and stars in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” gave a lecture, “Ain’t I a Woman: My Journey to Womanhood,” to a crowd of hundreds at the Student Union Tuesday.
Before Cox found her feminist influences — ranging from abolitionist Sojourner Truth to her friend and drag queen Tina Sparkles — Cox said she was taught to hide her true gender.
“The only thing I wanted to be was myself, and my self was very feminine,” she said. “I felt shamed, I felt very policed as to who I was.”
Zoey LeTendre, program adviser for the Carolina Union Activities Board, which hosted the event, said Cox’s message of finding yourself applies to everyone — especially college students.
Cox told the audience it took many years of struggle to claim her gender and accept the realities of both her sexuality and race.
“I am not just one thing, and neither are you — name and claim these intersecting ideas,” Cox said.
Wednesday is Transgender Day of Remembrance, when all transgender people who died due to violence are remembered. Cox said of all the LGBT homicides last year, 54 percent of the victims were transgender women.
Danny DePuy, assistant director of UNC’s LGBTQ Center, said the center will hold an event honoring all transgender deaths in the past year.
“As a society we’re so uneducated about trans identities that it can feel daunting to have an identity that most people don’t know about or are afraid of,” DePuy said. “When there’s such little representation, it’s easy to adhere to stereotypes.”
Junior Laura Carroll attended the speech and said she identifies as gender fluid, meaning she feels that her identity fluctuates.
“I’ve never been a normal kid and when I expressed myself differently, I was attacked,” Carroll said.
Cox said transgender people still face many difficulties including questions of health care coverage, accurate representation in the media and undeserved violence.
She said she still carries scars from some of her experiences as a transgender woman, but she revels in her success, saying she was finally able to quit her restaurant job just a few months ago.
“We heal from trauma by talking about it. I have so much trauma,” she said.
“I stand before you tonight as a proud African-American transgender woman.”
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