Gina Mei
September 11, 2015 2:26 pm

On Thursday night, actress, activist, and collective life hero Laverne Cox was given the Maybelline New York “Make It Happen Award” at the third annual Fashion Media Awards in NYC. The event, sponsored by Daily Front Row, honors the fashion and publishing industry’s very best — and at the end of the evening, Katie Couric presented Cox with the award, “for all of the amazing things she’s done for the trans community and for us all.”

In her acceptance speech, Cox talked at length about #TransIsBeautiful, the hashtag she started earlier this year that has quickly become a social media movement. Unsurprisingly, the story behind the hashtag’s origins is equal parts devastating, empowering, and beautiful — and we couldn’t be more grateful that Cox chose to share it.

“I started a hashtag earlier this year called #TransIsBeautiful,” she said, according to Elle. “And I started that because years ago, at the beginning of my transition, I would walk down the street and I would hear people yell, ‘That’s a man.’ And I would be devastated. Because here I was, I had finally accepted my womanhood, and the world was not reflecting that back on me and I was devastated.

“It took me years to fully internalize that someone can look at me and tell that I am transgendered and that is not only OK, but beautiful, because trans is beautiful,” she continued. “All the things that make me uniquely and beautifully trans — my big hands, my big feet, my wide shoulders, my deep voice — all of these things are beautiful. I’m not beautiful despite these things, I’m beautiful because of them.”

As Cox wrote in a , 41% of trans and gender-nonconforming people have attempted suicide in their lives, compared with the national average of 4.6%. It remains as important as ever that we work to change this; and not only for trans individuals who align with a very narrow idea of cisnormative beauty. By only acknowledging transgender people as beautiful and “acceptable” when they are cis-passing, we silence and ignore a diversity of experiences and people. And is that really acceptance?

As humans, we are beautiful for our similarities and our differences alike. Cox started #TransIsBeautiful as a reminder of this fact; as a reminder that our words have power; and as a reminder that trans individuals deserve just as much love and respect and acknowledgment as any cis person does. At the end of her speech, she issued a call to action to the media to take responsibility for their coverage on trans stories.

“So I would like to encourage every single one of you in this room to join with me in showing the world that trans is beautiful in terms of how we cover trans stories and diverse stories in general,” Cox concluded. “There are so many different kinds of beauty in the world that I want to celebrate and I know you want to celebrate it, too.”

We couldn’t think of a more powerful message.

(Image via Rena Schild / Shutterstock.)

Related stories:

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

Laverne Cox on what really matters about Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover

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