Laverne Cox Opens Up About Contemplating Suicide: 'Misgendering a Trans Person Is an Act of Violence'

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Laverne Cox attends the iHeartRadio Music Awards on March 11, 2018 in Los Angeles.

Following a ProPublica investigation that outlined transphobic practices in police investigations, Laverne Cox took to social media to share a candid, heart-wrenching letter that sheds light on the hardships faced by trans women -- and how those challenges culminated in her own thoughts of suicide.    

The Orange Is the New Black actress took to Instagram and Twitter to rally against police departments in Jacksonville, Florida; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Tyler, Texas, among other municipalities, that misgender and deadname trans people in investigating the murders of trans people. In her statement, Cox was frank in the occurrences of transphobia she's faced in her daily life, how that strife created circumstances that led to her own thoughts of suicide, and how, in her suicidal ideation, she planned to leave notes in her pocket and around her home to “be referred to as Laverne Cox only” and “not any other name.”    

“Being misgendered and deadnamed in my death felt like it would be the ultimate insult to the psychological and emotional injuries I was experiencing daily as a black trans woman in New York City, the injuries that made me want to take my own life,” Cox writes in the letter.    

The ProPublica report notes that of 85 cases from police departments nationwide, 74 misgendered and deadnamed their victims -- adding that the failure to recognize trans victims' identities resulted in the slowdown of investigations and a lack of trust among community members.     

Statements from police departments gathered by ProPublica often cited regulations that lacked procedures on how to properly address trans people, especially trans women, in investigations, instead relying on often-incorrect identity markers on state IDs. In some instances, however, departments would resort to using outright transphobic language such as “transvestites” in government reports.   

“As I read this report from ProPublica I sobbed and wept for all the trans people who have been murdered and those experiencing direct, cultural and structural violence. I wept because I haven't been allowing myself to. I wept for all of the violence I have experienced in my own life.”

In her note, Cox notes the intersection of these layers of violence faced by trans people and how this report paints an image of this violence.

“I have been saying for years that misgendering a trans person is an act of violence,” she continues. “I am angered, saddened and enraged that the police in Jacksonville, Florida and other jurisdictions don't have policies in place to respect the gender identities of trans folks when they have been MURDERED. This misgendering and deadnaming also impedes the investigations into these murders. Injustice on top of injustice!”

Read Cox’s full letter below:

 

Many years ago when I was contemplating suicide, I was planning to have a note in my pocket at the time of my death and several other notes in my home which would state my name, preferred gender pronouns and that I should be referred to as a woman in my death. My note would be clear that I should not be referred to as Laverne Cox only not any other name. Being misgendered and deadnamed in my death felt like it would be the ultimate insult to the psychological and emotional injuries I was experiencing daily as a black trans woman in New York City, the injuries that made me want to take my own life. I used to share a lot more on social media about the murders of trans folks. I don't as much now because its retraumatizing for me to constantly live in this space of death, murder and the injustices that lead to these deaths. As I read this report from ProPublica I sobbed and wept for all the trans people who have been murdered and those experiencing direct, cultural and structural violence. I wept because I haven't been allowing myself to. I wept for all of the violence I have experienced in my own life. I am angered, saddened and enraged that the police in Jacksonville, Florida and other jurisdictions don't have policies in place to respect the gender identities of trans folks when they have been MURDERED. This misgendering and deadnaming also impedes the investigations into these murders. Injustice on top of injustice! I have been saying for years that misgendering a trans person is an act of violence. When I say that I am referring to cultural and structural violence. The police misgendering and deadnaming trans murder victims as a matter of policy feels like a really good example of that cultural and structural violence. Thank you ProPublica for this in depth report on this issue. Please read and share and join with local trans organizations demanding that police do better on this issue and many others. Link in bio and here: https://www.propublica.org/article/deadnamed-transgender-black-women-murders-jacksonville-police-investigation/amp?__twitter_impression=true

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