To reinforce the sometimes overlooked fact that there are black people in the LGBTQ community, and also that there are LGBTQ people in the black community, I’m From Driftwood’s very first Community Spotlight will feature stories from the black community all this week. We are also making a commitment to feature more stories of all people of color and different ethnicities beyond this week.
Laverne is an actress and a transgender woman whose story takes us from her childhood experiences of being bullied, to the transphobia she experiences as an adult, and the acceptance she finally receives from her mother. Continue Reading to watch Laverne’s story.
My name is Laverne Cox and I’m from Mobile, Alabama. Until recently, I have had a tremendous out of shame about the bullying I experienced as a child. Whenever something would happen and my mother would find out, she would yell at me and say well why didn’t you fight back. Why aren’t you fighting back. And she would also say, what are you doing to make them treat you like that. So, I felt like it was my fault. We took the bus to school everyday. I have a twin brother. They, the kids couldn’t beat us up on the bus because the bus driver was sort of watching in the rear view mirror. But we knew that as soon as we got off the bus we had to take off running or we’d get beaten up. And for years, I joked that I was a very fast runner as a child. And it was sort of my way of deflecting from how painful it was, to sort of feel like I was always in danger. Up until that point, everyone was telling me that I was a boy. I was 8-years-old, and I was just convinced that I was a girl. The therapist told my mom and she yelled at me that boys are this way and girls are this way. And it was just this big thing. And, I again, internalized a lot of shame about the way I was thinking about myself and about who I was. I loved to dance as a kid. I was always dancing around. I would dance in the supermarket. I would just dance everywhere. Back when PE was in schools, when the kids were doing free play I was off dancing to music that was always in my head. And I always sort of had characters that I was playing and making up. So I begged from 5 years old to 8 years old to be in dance classes and my mom finally found a program for me. And I believe that that saved my life. I did try to commit suicide once, when I was about 11 years old, unsuccessfully. But if I didn’t have school, my mom’s a teacher, and education and reading and something I loved and that I was good at, I don’t think I would have survived. I didn’t feel safe at all as a kid.
And I’ve had moments like that as an adult, but the difference with me as an adult is that I have support now. I have people in my life who support and validate me as who I am. As a kid, when kids were saying all these awful things about me I thought that was the truth of who I was. And as an adult now, I find myself wanting to go back into oh people are saying this about me it must be true. But then I’m like, well no. I have people around me who are supportive and who are amazing who love me and are like no, what these people are saying about you is not who you are. And I know that that’s not who I am.
This past Christmas, my mom and I were, we were just talking and we hadn’t talked about the bullying stuff but you know, she, my mom she’s very aware of what’s been going on in the news with all the bullying stories. And she, it just sort of came up and she just said, just out of nowhere she said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to… I didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry I didn’t know how to deal with it.” She had her way and she thought that was the way and it didn’t work. And she loves me, and she supports me, and she’s proud of me. And that’s all I really wanted as a kid to have my mom be proud of me. That’s all I wanted. And she is, so that’s kind of amazing.