Culture

Laverne Cox opens up about suicide, deadnaming in powerful Instagram post

“The police misgendering and deadnaming trans murder victims as a matter of policy feels like a really good example of that cultural and structural violence.”

August 15, 2018

Laverne Cox has been a superhero when it comes to the increase of trans representation in popular media, even making history as the first openly trans person to be nominated for an Emmy for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black. These successes did not come easy, however, as the actress revealed in a candid and powerful Instagram post the mental toll that results from society’s constant refusal to honour trans identity through misgendering and deadnaming — a toll that even led to her contemplating suicide.

Cox’s message comes in response to a report by ProPublica on Jacksonville police refusing to refer to murdered transgender women by their chosen name or gender, instead identifying them by their birthnames and assigned gender (a disrespectful practice that in the trans community is known as “deadnaming”).

The actress admitted to her plans to keep a note in her pocket that stated her preferred name and pronouns when she was contemplating suicide several years back, going on to state that the act of misgendering a trans person to be a type of “structural and cultural violence,” and that “the police misgendering and deadnaming trans murder victims as a matter of policy feels like a really good example of that cultural and structural violence.”

Read Cox’s powerful statement in full below:

Many years ago when I was contemplating suicide, I was planning to have a note in my pocket at the time of my death and several other notes in my home which would state my name, preferred gender pronouns and that I should be referred to as a woman in my death. My note would be clear that I should not be referred to as Laverne Cox only not any other name.  Being misgendered and deadnamed  in my death felt like it would be the ultimate insult to the psychological and emotional injuries I was experiencing daily as a black trans woman in New York City, the injuries  that made me want to take my own life. I used to share a lot more on social media about the murders of trans folks. I don't as much now because its retraumatizing for me to constantly live in this space of death, murder and the injustices that lead to these deaths. As I read this report from ProPublica I sobbed  and wept for all the trans people who have been murdered and those experiencing direct, cultural and structural violence. I wept because I haven't been allowing  myself to. I wept for all of the violence I have experienced in my own life. I am angered, saddened and enraged that the police in Jacksonville, Florida and other jurisdictions don't have policies in place to respect the gender identities of  trans folks when they have been MURDERED.  This misgendering and deadnaming also impedes the investigations into these  murders. Injustice on top of injustice! I have been saying for years that misgendering a trans person is an act of violence. When I say that I am referring to cultural and structural violence.  The police misgendering and deadnaming trans murder victims as a matter of policy feels like a really good example of that cultural and structural violence.  Thank you ProPublica for this in depth report on this issue. Please read and share and join with local trans organizations demanding that police do better on this issue and many others. Link in bio and here: https://www.propublica.org/article/deadnamed-transgender-black-women-murders-jacksonville-police-investigation/amp?__twitter_impression=true

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