Orange Is the New Black star and groundbreaking TIME covergirl Laverne Cox appeared on The Wendy Williams Show today and endured a particularly dumb line of questioning about being transgender from Williams. Williams' several questions about Cox's gender identity included:
- "What is transgender?"
- "You've got breast implants?"
- "You made history as the first transgender on the cover of TIME magazine! What was your reaction to seeing that shot?"
- "Do you recall the moment in your life when you decided to go from male to female?"
- "Is Chaz Bono somebody who you see also as a hero in the culture?"
There's a lot to pick at here, if you are so inclined. Echoes of Cox's Katie Couric interview (alongside Carmen Carrera) from earlier this year are there in Williams' question about Cox's body. Using "transgender" as a noun and not an adjective (to modify "person") is a no-no, says Buzzfeed. One does not "decide" one's gender (though Williams' question is poorly stated, she could be asking about transitioning sex). And why on earth is Chaz Bono relevant to their conversation other than the fact that Bono is another transgender person that Williams has heard of?
Williams' language does not pass the internet outrage test.
Even something like, "What is transgender?," while clearly asked for the benefit of the truly ignorant in Williams' audience, just goes to show the burden Cox has as one of the few famous trans people in our culture (and any culture, really): She has to repeatedly explain what she is before she can even get to who.
But within Cox's answers lie so much about who she is as a person. She is unflappable. If she is sick of repeatedly answering the same questions, you wouldn't know it. She has such grace that she can correct you without you even knowing it. On the subject of her breasts, she told Williams:
Off camera, I can talk to you, but I've chosen not to talk about any of the stuff I've gotten done, because I think so often when trans people's experiences are talked about, we far too often focus on surgery and transition, so I don't talk about that. But I'm very happy with the situation.
Imagine if everyone answered ignorance with patience and compassion.
I'm not transgender, so I can't evaluate Cox as a group representative with true authority. But as a fellow human, I'm so glad that her voice is amplified, and increasingly so.
You can watch the entire interview below: