Actress Laverne Cox to discuss transgender issues at GV

Audra Gamble

Laverne Cox, a transgender woman of color and a star of the hit Netflix original show, “Orange is the New Black,” will speak at Grand Valley State University on Tuesday in the Eberhard Center room 215. While the event is not ticketed, seats are expected to fill quickly.

Cox’s speech, titled “Ain’t I a Woman: My Journey to Womanhood,” will focus on transgender rights and the struggles of the transgender community.

The event is co-sponsored by Student Senate; Iota Iota Iota, which is the women and gender studies honors society; Black Student Union; the Women’s Center; the Office of Multicultural Affairs; the LGBT Resource Center; the Division of Inclusion and Equity; and the women and gender studies department.

Organizers of the event hope GVSU students will take this opportunity to learn about the transgender community outside of a classroom setting.

“We chose Laverne because of her interesting background and her recent fame,” said Anthony Clemons, Student Senate vice president for diversity affairs. “Her identity as a transgender female of color gives her a certain view of the world that not many other people have or are given a platform on which to share.”

Danielle Meirow, president of Iota Iota Iota, agreed.

“(Cox) represents many different oppressed groups that have made her life experience particularly unique,” Meirow said. “She was also selected because of her popularity. We believe her fame will help pull in a wider audience than would normally attend an event about the life of a black transgender woman.”

Cox’s character on “Orange is the New Black” is a transgender woman named Sophia who is incarcerated due to credit card fraud in order to pay for her gender confirmation surgeries.

Cox is the first transgender woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream, scripted television show.

She has made news recently for reprimanding Katie Couric for a line of questioning that Cox deemed too personal and unrelated to the real issues of the transgender community.

“If anyone has ever watched videos of her you will know that she is a bold, courageous, straight-forward speaker,” Meirow said. “I am also excited for other people to hear and learn from her story and hopefully spread a message of acceptance to other people they encounter.”

Though Cox is famous for her role on “Orange is the New Black,” organizers of the event hope that students learn something about the transgender community as well as enjoy meeting a famous actress.

“I hope that (students) are able to first recognize their own privilege and then how they can use their privileges to leverage change in their society,” Clemons said. “Hearing Laverne’s story will shed light onto inequalities that are all too often overlooked or ignored, and creating a space where these discussions can happen is of great importance in today’s ever-changing and diverse society.”

For more information about the event, visit