What Laverne Cox told a 7-year-old trans girl, and why it matters

Laverne Cox — the immensely talented actress best known as Orange is the New Black‘s Sophia Burset — has accomplished an incredible amount for someone who’s only 31 years old. Last year, she won the GLAAD Stephen F. Kolzak Award, became the first openly transgender person to receive a Primetime Emmy nomination, and made TIME‘s list of The 100 Most Influential PeopleSo basically, she’s an all-around badass, and we’re completely in awe of her always.

It’s easy to see why the actress and activist is an inspiration to many. As a celebrity, Cox has often used her voice for immense good, particularly when it comes to speaking out about trans and LGBTQ+ rights. So when Marlo Mack — the woman behind the blog Gender Mom — heard that Cox was coming to her hometown, she knew she had to bring her 7-year-old transgender daughter, M., to see her.

Orange is the New Black isn’t really appropriate viewing for seven-year-olds,” Mack writes on Gender Mom, “but I had shown M. the photo of Ms. Cox on the cover of TIME when it came out last year, so M. had a vague idea that this was someone important who was also transgender.”

While the main event wasn’t really targeted at kids, Mack hoped that by bringing M., she would at least get to understand first-hand just how wonderful and intelligent and well-loved Cox is. (“Here is someone who is talented and smart and famous and beloved by the multitudes – and she’s also like you,” she writes on her blog.)

As luck would have it, a friend of a friend was able to sneak the pair into an intimate reception following the speech, and M. parked herself in front of some doors at the far end of the room. What followed next was all kinds of wonderful. Her mom recounts the story on her blog:

But, of course, she was quick to recover. M. gave her new heroine a hug and Cox got down on her level. Mack snapped pictures (because obviously) — and then overheard Cox say something to her daughter.

“Remember, honey, transgender is beautiful,” she said.

With only five words, Cox conveys so much and perfectly echoes #TransIsBeautiful, the hashtag she started last year. In the past, Cox has openly discussed the fact that as a society, we never acknowledge transgender individuals as beautiful — unless they are cis-passing, and even then, it’s rare. This is incredibly problematic and a notion that we have to fight. It remains as important as ever that we work to increase trans visibility and acceptance, and not only for those who align with a very narrow idea of cisnormative beauty. It is only through diverse representation that we can begin to do this.

“I started #TransIsBeautiful as a way to celebrate all those things that make trans folks uniquely trans, those things that don’t necessarily align with cisnormative beauty standards,” Cox wrote in a blog post about Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover. “For me, it is necessary every day to celebrate every aspect of myself, especially those things about myself that don’t align with other people’s ideas about what is beautiful. #TransIsBeautiful is about, whether you’re trans or not, celebrating all those things that make us uniquely ourselves.”

No matter who you are, it’s exciting to meet your favorite celebrity — but when that celebrity acknowledges you and gives you some major words of empowerment, it’s absolutely next level. We remain as grateful as ever to Cox for being such an inspiration to all.

(Images via, via)