Laverne Cox is many things: an actress, trans trailblazer, film producer and more. But one title that she holds near and dear to her heart is that of an activist.
The 48-year-old Alabama native spoke with Blavity News to discuss how allies can act in solidarity with the trans community, how her advocacy intersects with her career in Hollywood and her latest endeavor to ensure Black women are placed in a position to secure the bag.
No stranger to advocacy, the award-winning actress has been known to lend her voice to amplifying social justice causes. Just last year, Cox executive produced Disclosure, a documentary that illuminates the need for transgender representation in Hollywood by looking at trans portrayals in Hollywood over the years. When she isn't using her voice behind the scenes, she can likely be seen on the ground, being just as loud.
In 2019, the starlet made headlines when she appeared on the 2019 Emmys red carpet donning a rainbow-colored clutch that read Oct. 8 Title VII Supreme Court, bringing attention to three employment cases involving LGBTQ+ Americans. The case would ultimately decide whether discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity would be prohibited under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Just a month later, she spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court, in defense of a defendant in one of the cases, a woman who was allegedly dismissed from her employment following the disclosure of her gender identity.
Now, as racial bigotry and transphobia continue to pervade the nation, Cox is doubling down on the fight to secure equal rights for trans folks, Black folks and other marginalized groups.
“I think injustice is something that we have to be aware of and the suffering that injustice causes, but what are the solutions?” Cox told Blavity. “For me and my activism, now I'm really looking to the things that are positive and the things that can really make a difference in the material conditions of people's lives."
While many companies have made headlines in the past for demonstrations of allyship, the actress has made it clear that it’s important for companies to not just talk about the work but to do it.
As it concerns allyship and showing up for Black trans people, Cox goes on to encourage the idea of speaking out, no matter the ebb and flow of social justice movements.
“I think that allyship is like, what am I doing in my life on a daily basis to stand up for my fellow human beings. I think that is the thing in terms of allyship,” Cox said. “If you really are interested in being an ally for us, get informed and stand up for us but not when it’s convenient or comfortable.”
Cox also went on to encourage unity with the common goal to resist division as we are all in the fight together.
"I'm doing that when I can for my working-class siblings and I think that's what it's about, being accomplices in a way for justice because ultimately we're all in this together,” Cox said. “Ultimately, there is a power structure in place that's not interested in a lot of people getting ahead and moving forward. If we can all come together and resist the divide and conquer strategy, it's gonna be a beautiful, beautiful world.”
Not only does the LGBTQ+ trailblazer encourage unifying amid this oppressive structure, but she also lives by it, modeling her own advocacy as such.
“For me, as a trans woman, it’s important to stand up for reproductive rights, even though I can't bear children, I want to stand up for the reproductive rights of those people who can, and who need to have control over their bodies in that way,” Cox said. “I'm going to stand up for my non-binary siblings and I'm gonna do what I can and not sit, but I'm going to stand up for my working-class siblings as well.”
The Orange Is The New Black actress' latest venture comes in the form of a partnership with Smirnoff to support Black women entrepreneurs across the country in their latest collaboration with Sidebarre, a Black woman-owned business to attend virtual bar(re) classes from home. The collaborative venture, which will see Cox as the host of one of the virtual sessions, will donate $50,000 to Black Girl Ventures, a foundation that provides capital access to Black and brown women founders.
Cox is especially proud of the company's investment in Black and brown communities.
“Supporting Black women-owned businesses is really, really exciting. Smirnoff is making a $50,000 donation to Black Girl Ventures and it's an organization that provides capital community for Black and brown women-identifying businesses,” Cox said. “They're trans-inclusive, which is awesome."