Thanks to Activists Like Laverne Cox, Trans Visibility is Greater Than Ever

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Laverne Cox

The 21st century has seen an explosion of trans visibility, thanks largely in part to activists like Laverne Cox (pictured). But this vibrant part of our rainbow community has long been misunderstood and faced violence as a result. In 1999 Gwendolyn Ann Smith founded the observance to memorialize the murder of Rita Hester, but the somber date (November 20) has evolved into an occasion to remember all trans people whose lives were taken from them as a result of anti-transgender violence.

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Many observe the occasion by reading aloud the names of these people; the lists tend to be hundreds of names long, but only represent a portion of those who have been lost. “They dared to be themselves when our society made it a crime to deviate from gender norms,” said Cox (known for her role on Orange Is the New Black and hosting makeup reality competition Glam Masters) of her transestors in a video on She also points out that the struggle is not over: “The murder rate of trans women of color increases with every passing year,” Cox adds. Nevertheless, she ends the video with a message of hope: “Our rights will be hard-won, but we are winning.”

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Last modified: August 16, 2019