Laverne Cox opened up about the “survivor’s guilt” she feels as a successful black trans woman
Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox has become one of the most well-known trans women in the world, and the actress and activist has continually used her platform to fight for transgender rights and representation. But she recently opened up about the darker sides of fame and success.
Self magazine published a profile of Cox on October 17th in which the actress talked about learning to love herself, as well as the stress and pressure of life in the public eye. Cox told the magazine that she often experiences “survivor’s guilt” over the fact that she has experienced so much success while countless other trans women-of-color face violence and persecution.
"I understand that I'm very lucky," she said."I understand that I've been chosen. It makes me sad...it's very intense."
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), about 10% of trans people living in the U.S. have been evicted from their homes, while about 20% will experience homelessness at some point. A 2016 report from the NCTE found that 13% of trans people surveyed had been physically attacked in 2015, and a September study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that among 11 to 19-year-olds, nearly 51% of trans boys, 30% of trans girls, and 42% of nonbinary respondents had attempted suicide in the past.
Cox told Self that she has experienced bullying and has faced eviction, amplifying the contrast between her past and present lives.
To overcome feelings of guilt, the actress told Self that she tries to remember to be proud of her accomplishments (and limit her spending). She also noted that her brother reminds her that it’s important for other black trans people to see themselves represented onscreen—which helps. Cox added that fans tell her that her success has helped them feel more optimistic about the future.
"I've heard the most incredible stories—people saying I've saved their life […] because I was on TV," she told Self. "They were going to commit suicide and then they transitioned. And these are beautiful things. But, it's also a lot to hear all the time."
As always, we’re grateful to Cox for her activism and for all she does for the trans community, and we will continue to fight for a future where transgender people can live lives free of fear and marginalization.