Laverne Cox comes to Sonoma State, talks gender identity and beauty in diversity

As she walked on to the stage, the audience burst into echoing, unanimous cheers. There were a sea of students fitted into Weill Hall. 

One would be hard pressed to find an empty seat in the sold- out show. Students jumped out of their seats to applaud the woman they had been counting down the seconds to see. Laverne Cox spoke at the Green Music Center last Thursday. She spoke as a part of the Women in Leadership lecture series. 

During the lecture, Laverne shared her life story as a transgender woman as well as information about her struggles in the LGBT community. 

The story Cox shared was one of continuous heartbreak and struggles during her childhood but also of love, acceptance and strength through her transition into becoming a woman. 

Cox shared how at an early age she knew she was meant to be a girl. She acted feminine in elementary school and kids were extremely hostile to her because of it. 

“It was really scary being chased home by four, five or sometimes six kids,” said Cox. “I had to immediately start taking off running or I might’ve gotten beaten up that day. It was terrifying.”

She reminded the audience that her experience is not unique; many kids who identify in the LGBT community are bullied heavily she said. 

Cox spoke of everything from the confusion she felt as a small child to the freedom she felt when she found a community in New York City that felt like home. 

During her portion about New York City, she spoke of an act of violence committed against her. 

In 2008, a group of young men were catcalling her when one noticed she was transgender. Once he did, he kicked her on the street and she had to take shelter in a near-by store while she called the police.

Cox spoke out about how hard it is in the community to be accepted as transgender. Often people would call out slurs to Cox while walking down the street. 

“It took me many years to internalize that if someone looked at me and could tell that I’m transgender, that’s not only just okay, but it’s beautiful.” Cox said. “Trans is beautiful.”

Students at the performance were inspired by Laverne Cox’s story.

“I felt really empowered about what Laverne had to say,” said Sonoma State freshman Miki Martinez. “She is very inspiring.”

This was the first show in Green Music Center history that was sold out to a majority of students. Looking out at the crowd, one could see students of all ages, genders, ethnicities and identities being brought together by the strong words of Laverne Cox.

“I was deeply moved by her talk,” said sophomore Meagan Ryall. “Laverne Cox was just amazing, expressive and so inspiring.” 

Within the Sonoma State community, there are students of all kinds. Cox’s lecture helps to bring awareness to the beauty in diversity. 

“It was really important and an honor to have Laverne Cox at Sonoma State,” said Mark Fabionar, director of the HUB. “She’s an inspiration for students whose gender identities and expressions aren’t necessarily the norm of society. And she’s an inspiration to those who support a more inclusive and compassionate society.”

To learn more about Laverne Cox’s life story and her fight for trans rights, see her website at www.lavernecox.com.