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Laverne Cox Is Everywhere 

Wednesday, Jun 24 2015
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If it feels as though Amy Schumer is everywhere this year, Laverne Cox is charting a new zenith of everywhere-ness. The actress, trans rights advocate, and "possibility model" has posed nude for Allure, exchanged heartwarming tweets with Caitlyn Jenner, and worn pasties at a charity event on Broadway. And millions of people have been binge-watching season three of Orange is the New Black, in which her character, Sophia, has a bigger role than in years past.

Here in San Francisco, Three Twins Ice Cream released a Laverne Cox-themed flavor, Chocolate Orange is the New Black, just in time for Friday's unveiling of her wax figure at Madame Tussauds.

I mention that her likeness is going to do something extremely unusual: Lure actual San Franciscans to the Wharf.

"I know, right?" Cox said, laughing. "The tourist trap of all tourist traps."

To Cox, the entire development is just plain weird.

"I was just on the phone with my brother [artist M. Lamar, who also plays her OITNB character, Sophia, in pre-transition flashbacks]," she said. "We were talking about the hilarity of three years ago, when I was barely paying my rent. I actually borrowed money from him — which is crazy, because he doesn't actually have a lot of money — just to stay in my apartment. And three years later, I have a wax figure being made? It doesn't even feel real. I'm so grateful, but it feels really weird and bizarre."

Sadly, she's not planning on devouring a triple scoop sundae based on her new flavor.

"I love ice cream but I'm doing a no-sugar, no-carb thing right now," Cox said. "It's hard, because honestly, if I just have a lick of ice cream, I will probably eat the whole — I just can't. But I'm so honored. It's so cute."

As if this weren't exposure enough, there's even talk of nominating Cox to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. Would she accept?

"I saw the people tweeting that they wanted me ... No, that's insane. That's crazy. But thank you."

With such breezy accolades, it's easy to overlook how grounded Cox's activism is in LGBT history and the language of social justice. For instance, when she was grand marshal of NYC Pride last year, she chose to highlight the escalating violence against gender nonconforming people that has undercut recent gains in trans visibility. Cox invited the mother of murdered transwoman Islan Nettles (whose homicide had not yet resulted in an arrest) to ride along with her and remind people that justice had not been served.

Noting that "trans folks have often been asked to sit at the back of the bus when it comes to LGBT rights," Cox said that when she thinks about Pride, "I always think about Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major and Jayne County and all those people who are still around who were at Stonewall and whose lives have been a struggle because we have not done the work in this country to prioritize the lives of trans people, particularly trans people of color."

Cox is certainly doing the heavy lifting, including some violent scenes in Orange is the New Black that were "deeply triggering." But she is undeterred.

"When people understand there's no universal trans narrative, they can begin to engage with trans people as individuals," she said. "They can begin to understand that there is a broader cultural need, policy need, in terms of making our lives better and our society more just."

Charting new terrain for multidimensional, fully humanizing and nonobjectifying representations does a lot more than make good television, too.

"Maybe this will be a source of inspiration for people to believe that their dreams are possible and they can overcome crazy circumstances not only to survive, but to thrive," Cox said. "Most of my life, the only way I can make sense of it is to think in terms that are bigger than me. Cause when I think about just me, this girl, this black transgirl from Mobile, Alabama, it's like, 'What?!'"


More From Your Pride Guide:

Your Pride Guide Intro
By Peter Lawrence Kane

Faerie Freedom Village
By Peter Lawrence Kane

How to Be a Straight Ally on Pride
By Peter Lawrence Kane

Transparent Policing: Law Targets Anti-Trans Harassment
By Julia Carrie Wong

Profiles: Activist Mahnani Clay
By Giselle Velazquez

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About The Author

Peter Lawrence Kane

Bio:
Peter Lawrence Kane is SF Weekly's Arts Editor. He has lived in San Francisco since 2008 and is two-thirds the way toward his goal of visiting all 59 national parks.

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