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10 Teachable Moments From Laverne Cox's Incredibly Inspiring Talk At WorldPride

By Regan Reid | /Bent June 26, 2014 at 10:38AM

Laverne Cox had a lot to say last night in Toronto.
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On that infamous Katie Couric interview:

On August 17, 2013, Islan Nettles, a trans woman of colour, was beaten into a coma. She died five days later. The day before her Katie interview, Cox learned that the charges against Nettles' attacker had been dropped (still to this day, no one has been charged for her murder). So Cox came to the taping of Katie with an agenda: to “school the children,” as Cruz put it, on the violence experienced by trans women, particularly trans women of colour. Some background on the interview: in a previous segment, Couric asked Carmen Carrera, a famous trans model, if her “private parts are different now.” Carrera refused to answer, saying that it is a private matter. “I have sat and cringed at home when reporters ask these kinds of questions and trans folks have felt obliged to answer them,” Cox told the TIFF audience. She said she was proud of Carrera for refusing. Then Couric broached the question with Cox—and you should really watch the response here. Five days later, Couric announced on national television that the interview was a teachable moment for her. She also invited Cox back on the show to talk more about trans issues. “There are folks out there who are willing to be [taught], who are willing to be open and to learn things that they might not [otherwise] learn,” Cox said. “It was really beautiful and, for me, it's a model of how we can have these teachable moments with a lot of love and empathy without attacking each other.”

On that TIME cover story you may have heard about:

Cox said she's excited that trans folk will see the magazine and think that their “stories and lives and voices matter,” but she stressed: “Just because a black trans person is on the cover of TIME magazine does not mean that trans people are not still fighting for their lives all across the world.”

On her upcoming documentary, Free CeCe:

On June 5, 2011, CeCe McDonald, a black trans woman, was attacked outside of a bar and was ultimately charged for the accidental stabbing death of Dean Schmitz, her assailant. She was sentenced to 41 months in a men's prison. McDonald was released in January, but is still on parole. Cox's documentary, which is still in production and currently scheduled for a 2016 release, tells CeCe's story, but also discuss the culture of violence against trans women. When asked about what viewers can learn from CeCe's story, Cox said: “This was not her first time being attacked and being a survivor of violence. She's this remarkable young woman, but there are just so many CeCe McDonalds out there. There are so many more that we don't know about who are fighting for their lives, who are being criminalized because of it.” She added: “The homicide rate in the LGTBQ committee continues in 2013 to be highest amongst trans women – 72% last year of all LGTBQ homicides were trans women, 67% were trans women of colour. I have said it is a state of emergency repeatedly because it is. I try not to get heated about it, but it's like what the fuck is going on?”

Plus: one extra highlight (because it's important and impossible to focus on just 10 things from this talk).

On what needs to be done for the trans community right now:

After discussing several recent cases of trans women who have been killed, Cruz urged the audience to attend a Trans Day of Remembrance. Cox responded: “Until recently, so many of these trans women were only remembered in death. It's like, okay, now they're dead, now we can name their names. What do we do about them when they're alive, when they're here? What are we doing for the folks who are here right now?” Underlying all the issues affecting the trans community, she said, is a widely held belief that people can only be the gender that they were assigned at birth. She told the audience that she receives letters telling her that she, and other trans people, are mentally ill. “When we can begin to dismantle that misconception, then we can begin to extend healthcare, then we can begin to employ transfolk, then we can have housing and bathrooms and accommodations that are appropriate for trans people. There's a basic assumption that we need to challenge around binary gender and then we need to look at the intersections of race and class with that,” she said. “We need to fight racism, classism and patriarchy along with transphobia.”