Laverne Cox

Cox, Laverne 2017 by Peter Hapak for Time

Photo: Peter Hapak for Time

Laverne Cox was born on May 29 (some sources cite birth year as 1984, others as 1972). She is an actress and LGBTQ advocate who became the first openly transgender person to be featured on the cover of “Time” magazine, and the first nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in an acting category.

Laverne Cox was born a twin in Mobile, Alabama, and raised by her single mother, Gloria, and grandmother. Cox attempted suicide at the age of 11, and was often bullied for not acting “the way someone assigned male at birth was supposed to act.”

“I begged my mother to put me into dance classes and finally, in third grade, she did,” Cox told “Time.” “Tap and jazz but not ballet. She thought ballet was too gay…Throughout all of that, I was very feminine and I was really bullied, majorly bullied. There was this side of me that was this over-achiever that loved learning.”

Cox attended high school at the Alabama School of Fine Arts before studying at Indiana University in Bloomington and Marymount Manhattan College, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance. Cox was later awarded an Honorary Doctorate from The New School in New York City for her progressive work in the fight for gender equality.

In 2008, Cox appeared on “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” and followed that with appearing as a contestant on the reality series “I Want to Work for Diddy.” She continued to act in television and independent films, and another reality program (“TRANSform Me”) before landing her big break in the television series “Orange is the New Black”—even as she performed as a drag queen on New York’s Lower East Side.

For her work on “Orange” as Sophia Burset, an imprisoned trans woman, Cox was nominated for two Emmy Awards, making history as the first openly transgender person to be nominated in an acting category. In 2015, she won a Daytime Emmy Award in Outstanding Special Class Special as executive producer for “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word.” The honor made her the first openly transgender woman to win a Daytime Emmy as an executive producer. That same year, Cox achieved another milestone: the first openly transgender person to have a wax figure of herself at Madame Tussauds.

Cox’s other credits include “The Mindy Project,” “Grandma,” “Free CeCe,” “Bored to Death,” “Musical Chairs,” and the reboot of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.” In 2017, she became the first transgender person to play a transgender series regular on broadcast television as attorney Cameron Wirth on CBS’s “Doubt.”

We thank Laverne Cox for her pioneering contributions to trans visibility, and for her support of our community.

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