Laverne Cox says focus on transgender people needs to shift from before-and-after of surgery: 'It objectifies us, reducing us to our bodies'

‘It functions as a reminder that trans people are not really who they say they are – that we’re fake and artificial’

Laverne Cox says transgender narratives in the media needs to shift from the 'before-and-after' of surgery
Laverne Cox says transgender narratives in the media needs to shift from the 'before-and-after' of surgery

Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox has spoken of her frustration of the narrative around transgender people, claiming that the media’s focus on surgery means trans people are objectified and not humanised.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Cox said she felt that since Christine Jorgensen became the first transgender woman to become widely recognised in the 1950s, “the narrative has been one of surgery, transitioning and bodies”.

“Part of the reason it continues to be the story is that this before-and-after narrative reinforces the idea that the barriers between male and female are so vast and so broad that trans folks must do all this surgery to cross over”.

She added that the focus on surgery reinforces an idea that trans people are “not who they say they are – that we’re fake and artificial”.

“It keeps us from humanising trans folks, objectifies us, reducing us to our bodies,” she told the magazine.

Cox was the first transgender actress to be nominated for an Emmy award and appeared on the front cover of Time magazine a year before Caitlyn Jenner’s appearance on Vanity Fair.

Laverne Cox appeared on the front cover of Time magazine in 2014

When Jenner was publicly praised for the bold reveal of her transition, Cox was one of the many who congratulated the athlete for her bravery.

But Cox, an activist for transgender rights, said in a blog post at the time that it is important to remember that not all trans people can afford gender reassignment surgery nor want to undertake it, that some are refused the option and that many trans people remain at risk in society.

She wrote: “Most trans folks don’t have the privileges Caitlyn and I now have. It is those trans folks we must continue to lift up, get them access to healthcare, jobs, housing, safe streets, safe schools and homes for our young people. We must life up the stories of those most at risk, statistically trans people of colour who are poor and working class.”

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