Laverne Cox is a transgendered women of colour. She tells us of her experience as a trans women of colour and how this identity can sometimes put herself in extremely severe conditions in terms of bullying and harassment. Laverne has had to deal with intersectionality of being a trans women and a women of colour. She mentions in her talk, that she finds that women in her unique situation are subject to more severe harassment than white trans women. In Laverne’s story she is harassed by two men of colour, whom of which do not have any regard for her transgender identity. She is first harassed about her identity as a women of colour being incredibly rudely name; called a b word or an n word. Once they figured out that she was a trans women she describes how the tormenting “turned into something else”. Statistics have been shown that “trans women make up 72% of anti-LGBTQIA+ homicide victims, and 89% of these victims were people of colour”.
Within North America there are large amounts of cultural hegemony, for those of you who do not know what this means, cultural hegemony is the overriding and dominant ideas that a culture forces onto minority cultures. As much as ideas are changing there is still a large portion of the population that feels that gender expression is not something that can be changed from when you are born. People with these ideas also feel that being heterosexual is the only “normal” or “appropriate” way to express your sexual identity. This very idea is one that has caused so much harassment towards the LGBTQIA+ community. As explained by Laverne Cox, the reasons why rates of harassment for trans women of colour are so much higher goes back to the 1860‘s slavery laws and Jim Crow. In this time there was large racial segregation and during the days of slavery men of colour were often subject to lynching. In extreme cases male genitals would be cut off. Laverne brings the point that this may be why it so difficult for people of colour to understand trans people. She describes that people of colour see her as “the embodiment of [the] historic emasculation come to life”. Although Laverne is embodying her true identity it can be difficult for people to see past the historic events that have shaped black history. This is sad truth is why the rates of harassment are so much higher for trans women of colour
Another story Laverne tells is of a girl named Islan Nettles who was in the same situation as Laverne, being hit on her and made to feel uncomfortable, but in her case after finding out she is a trans women they proceeded to beat her to death. This brings into play power structures between people with different sexual identities. When men hit on women they feel a sense of control in the situation, they feel as if they are the person of power. I believe that in some extreme when men feel this is threatened they act out, and feel they need to do something bigger to assert authority. In Islan Nettles case I think that the men felt that had authority over her by catcalling. When they found out she was a trans women they may have felt that their sexuality was then put into question and felt threatened by this, which brought them to the idea to assert their authority through beating. Here there is an intersection between a power structure and being confident in your sexuality. As a society we need break the power structures that have been built up by cultural hegemony and encourage the acceptance of different sexualities.
Instead of looking at these stories as individual cases we need to be focusing on the overall 89% of trans women of colour. Understanding the bigger picture will help to bring more long-term solutions, such as equality and freedom of gender and sexual expression. For this to happen there needs to be more awareness of inequalities; people need to be able to discuss these topics in a open environment. We need to break the social rules that people continue to follow from times of segregation and severe power structures.
“Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2015