Kit Steinkellner
September 29, 2015 2:07 pm

Over the course of the past few years, Laverne Cox has become one of the trans community’s most visible and vocal advocates. Cox regularly makes headlines for spreading awareness, engaging in acts of awesomeness like creating the #transisbeautiful hashtag,  being the first openly trans woman to appear on the cover of Time (and the first openly trans woman to secure an Emmy nomination, and the first openly trans woman to get a Madame Tussaud statue) the list goes on and on.

Cox is a total font of knowledge, so when she opens her mouth to speak, you better believe we are listening. Yesterday, Cox appeared at the 2015 Social Good Summit to discuss the issues currently facing the trans community.

As Mashable reports, Cox spoke with Shelby Chestnut, co-director of community organizing and public advocacy at the Anti-Violence Project, and Cecilia Chung, senior strategist of the Transgender Law Center about the issue of trans visibility. Cox made the important point that the U.S. Census works on the gender binary system and only gives two choices: “male” or “female,” which is problematic for those who do not identify with either of these options.

“What message are we sending to those who are trans and gender nonconforming when we don’t even count them?” Cox asked. “We suggest that their identities don’t even matter.”

Cox went on to explain that she believes that the cycle of violence against trans individuals (“This year alone, we’ve reported 19 homicides of transgender and gender non-conforming folks alone,” Shelby said earlier in the conversation. “And, of those, 17 were trans women of color.”) is directly tied to the issue of visibility.

“I was thinking that visibility is only part of the equation,” she said, speaking about solving the cycle of violence against trans folks. “We must have social policy, systemic change. And then I thought about the Census. Systemically, this idea of the gender binary is very much institutionalized in the fact that we just don’t count trans people.”

As Chestnut pointed out, if options like “transgender” and “gender non-conforming” are made available on the Census, there will be a wealth of data regarding these communities that is suddenly available on issues like “. . . housing discrimination, underemployment or employment discrimination, lack of [gender affirming] education.”

These are critical issues that need to be addressed and resolved, and that’s why we’re so glad that Laverne Cox and her colleagues are raising awareness so that real change can occur.

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

Watch John Oliver brilliantly stand up for trans rights

[Image via Twitter]

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