laverne cox says "werk caitlyn!"

The trailblazing actress gets real on beauty standards and the ongoing struggle for trans rights.

by Emily Manning
03 June 2015, 12:15am

Though it was only released yesterday, Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover already yields over 20 million Google search results. Some of them are ignorant and transphobic, like former child star Drake Bell's deleted tweet stating he'd still refer to her as "Bruce." But fortunately, one was a beautifully written essay by trailblazing trans actress Laverne Cox.

Earlier this morning, the Orange Is the New Black star took to Tumblr to express her support for Caitlyn, whose internet-breaking shoot was released almost exactly a year after Cox's own Time magazine cover. Cox said that although she's moved to echo others' sentiments about "how gorgeous Caitlyn looks in her photos" — she offered up a hearty "Yasss Gawd! Werk Caitlyn! Get it!" — these comments have also caused her to examine her own desires to serve sexiness in a shoot, and how this impacts the trans community at large.

"In certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards," Cox wrote. The observation certainly extends to the Vanity Fair cover, which positions Caitlyn as a classically beautiful American bombshell reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe. Yet Cox also recognizes that "many trans folks don't want to embody [these standards] and we shouldn't have to to be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves. It is important to note that these standards are also informed by race, class and ability among other intersections."

It's already been a big year for both redefining beauty standards and trans people carving spaces within these paradigms, like model Hari Nef who recently signed to IMG. Cox understands that it's this diversity that makes us all beautiful: "I started #TransIsBeautiful as a way to celebrate all those things that make trans folks uniquely trans, those things that don't necessarily align with cisnormative beauty standards. For me it is necessary every day to celebrate every aspect of myself especially those things about myself that don't align with other people's ideas about what is beautiful."

Last month, Cox delivered a moving speech at the GLAAD Media Awards about the importance of pushing past trans visibility to enshrine real rights for the most at-risk members of the LGBT community, a conviction she echoed today: "Most trans folks don't have the privileges Caitlyn and I have now have. It is those trans folks we must continue to lift up, get them access to healthcare, jobs, housing, safe streets, safe schools and homes for our young people. We must lift up the stories of those most at risk, statistically trans people of color who are poor and working class."

Earlier today, Vanity Fair returned the favor and posted a video of Caitlyn crediting Cox as an inspirational pioneer. Read Cox's full Tumblr post here


Text Emily Manning
Image via Tumblr

Caitlyn Jenner
Think Pieces
Laverne Cox