When we speak about the violence so many Black trans women experience, we think it happens solely to women without fame, access and notoriety. But that’s not entirely true. Because actress and activist Laverne Cox shared that she and a friend recently experienced a violent incident that left her shocked and triggered by the encounter.
Cox wasn’t the victim of the violence that took place that day. Thankfully her friend stepped in to defend her. Still, it reminded her so much of the other dangerous moments in her life.
You can read about the incident in the excerpts and watch the full IG Live below.
“I just went for a social distanced walk with a friend. We wore our masks at Griffith Park here in Los Angeles. I was wearing my mask and my hoodie. Kind of trying to be incognegro. And then we pass this guy and the guy very aggressively asks for the time.
And when people talk to me on the street, I usually kind of ignore them. That’s just the New Yorker in me. So he very aggressively asks us the time. And my friend, who I’m with, looks at his watch and tells him the time. And then the guy who asked for the time says to my friend, ‘Guy or girl?’ My friend says ‘F*ck off.’
I’m walking. I’m hearing all of this happening in a split second. Then all of a sudden, the guy is attacking my friend. I look back and I’m like what is happening. The guy is hitting my friend, my friend is going towards him. And I’m like holy sh*t. I pull out my phone to dial 9-1-1. All of a sudden it’s over and the guy is gone.”
Cox shared that the mind likely approached them hoping she would be the one to answer his aggressive inquiry and then he could inquire about whether she was a “boy or girl.” But Laverne knew by the way he asked the question that it wasn’t an interaction in which she wanted to participate. So she kept it moving.
But the man was determined to get a reaction out of someone that day.
Laverne said that her friend has other trans friends and has been on dates with other trans people before but had never been in a situation like that. Sadly, Laverne said this was not the first time she had experienced something like this.
Reflecting on her past experiences, she said:
“It doesn’t always come to blows, it doesn’t always get physical but I have a long history of street harassment in New York of being clocked or spooked or called out on the street. I just can’t believe it got physical. I guess I can believe it. But it was really, really weird. I’m having these moments of, should I have recorded him? When this stuff happens, it’s so quick. But I’m safe. My friend is fine.
It’s not safe in the world. I don’t like to think about that a lot but it is the truth. It’s not safe if you’re a trans person. I know this well but it’s just really sad. We were literally just walking through the park.
“I’m very lucky and grateful that my friend was there and wanted to protect me. I have barely left the house all week. I’m really going to not go out now. I barely leave the house anyway. Obviously, there’s a pandemic. But even before the pandemic, I’ve always been very careful about where I go and what I do. And I’m very hyper aware when I leave the house because of my history of this thing. It doesn’t matter who you are. You can be Laverne Cox, whatever that means, but if you’re trans you’re going to experience stuff like this.”
Cox shared that she plans to reach out to her therapist to help her process the incident. But in the moment she grounded herself by getting present.
“In the moment, I was like, ‘Okay I’m triggered. We were walking to my friend’s car and I was like, ‘It’s 2020. I’m not 11-years-old. I’m walking through the park right now.’ Because when I’m triggered, the body doesn’t know if the traumatic stuff happened 20 years ago. So all of a sudden, I could be the 11-year-old being chased or the 30-year-old being kicked in the street or whatever the situation.”
Laverne reminded herself that she is in her home now and safe.
She also wanted to remind any trans women who may be watching that when these things happen, it’s not their fault. There wasn’t anything she could or should have done differently in that moment. The man was likely mentally ill and intent on causing some drama.
“There are people who are not cool with you existing in the world. It is not my friend’s fault or my fault that this happened. We just happened to walk in the park. Be safe out there. I love you. Happy Holidays.”
You can watch Laverne describe the incident in the video below.