‘Orange Is The New Black’ Star Laverne Cox Discusses Bullying, Attempted Suicide

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Orange Is The New Black star Laverne Cox has made a significant accomplishment by becoming the first transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME magazine.

The actress graces the cover of the magazine’s latest issue for the cover story titled “The Transgender Tipping Point,” where she discusses her difficult personal journey as well as her role in the transgender movement.

Cox shares that she began to be confused about her gender identity at a young age.

“I just thought that I was a girl and that there was no difference between girls and boys,” she tells TIME. “I think in my imagination I thought that I would hit puberty and I would start turning into a girl.”

Growing up in the small town of Mobile, Ala., she faced a childhood filled with judgement, bullying and harassment for appearing feminine.

“I begged my mother to put me into dance classes and finally, in third grade, she did. 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,” she said. “I was also taunted at school. I was called names. I was made fun of.”

As the years went on, the bullying got worse. Cox describes a particular incident where she was chased down by a group of kids.

“The second we got off the bus, they would try to beat me up,” Cox said. “So I’d have to start running, immediately. So that day I was running for my life, basically, and four or five kids caught me. They were in the band. And I remember being held down and hit with drumsticks by these kids.”

Faced with shame and isolation, Cox once tried to end her life.

“During puberty, the attraction for other boys got really strong. And I learned in church that was a sin. I imagined that my grandmother was looking down on me and that she knew what I was thinking, because she’s in heaven. I just imagined that I was disappointing her and it just was devastating for me,” she says of her self-conflict.” So I went to the medicine cabinet and got a bottle of pills. And took them. And swallowed them. And went to sleep, hoping not to wake up. And I did wake up, with a really bad stomachache. I don’t remember what the pills were. Whatever it was, I thought that they would kill me but they didn’t.”

Despite the struggles early on, Cox is happy now and inspiring others with her story.

“I’m so busy and I’m living my dream. I feel like myself and I feel pretty integrated, like the person that I am inside is who the world is seeing, which feels calming,” she said.

She also urges others not to pass judgement because they do not understand the transgender experience.

“I think what they need to understand is that not everybody who is born feels that their gender identity is in alignment with what they’re assigned at birth, based on their genitalia.,”she explains. “If someone needs to express their gender in a way that is different, that is okay, and they should not be denied healthcare. They should not be bullied. They don’t deserve to be victims of violence.”

The second season of Orange Is the New Black premieres on Netflix on Friday, June 6.

Read the full interview here.

(Photo Credit: TIME magazine)