On May 10, standing in a line stretching from Creese to MacAlister, students waited to hear “Orange Is the New Black” actress Laverne Cox speak in Mandell Theater.
“I stand before you as a proud, African American transgender woman,” Cox began. “I think it’s important to note the intersectionality of my identities,” she continued.
In a presentation which lasted over an hour, listeners learned about both unfortunate and spectacular moments that shaped Laverne Cox’s identity.
“From a very early age, I began to feel that I was wrong, so I didn’t feel fully safe at school. I didn’t feel fully safe at home, but where I did feel safe was in my imagination,” she explained.
Laverne Cox revealed that she loved to dance as a child. She begged her mother to let her attend dance classes in her hometown of Mobile, Alabama. Her passion for dance and her love of the popular television show at the time, “Fame,” made her excited to attend The Alabama School of Fine Arts.
Throughout her speech, she spoke about her favorite authors, including Brené Brown and bell hooks. She mentioned that their work and ideas influenced her perspective on her sexuality and femininity. In particular, Brown’s focus on shame and guilt helped Cox to realize the shame that she possessed for her identity.
The event ended with a Q&A session where students asked questions about femininity and “Orange Is the New Black.” One student asked about whether some transgender people play into patriarchal gender roles when they alter their appearance to closely match societal standards for their gender.
“What might be shackles for one woman is liberating for another,” Cox answered.
She ended her speech by encouraging students to promote activism for LGBTQ youth facing depression, homelessness and other difficult circumstances in their communities.
Cox was invited by Drexel’s Student Center for Inclusion and Culture in collaboration with the Campus Activities Board as the 2016 Power of Inclusion speaker. The mission for this series, according to the SCIC, is to “inspire campus dialogue, community engagement and education related diversity and inclusion.”
The attendees were also encouraged to donate to The Attic Youth Center for LGBTQ youth in Philadelphia.