2. Laverne Cox
Laverne Cox, the Emmy-nominated actor of Orange Is the New Black and one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2015, has long been an advocate for the transgender community. She has helped countless trans individuals feel connected through her acting roles, university speaking tours, and television guest appearances. However, Cox’s life hasn’t always been glitz and glamour. She has overcome bullying, gender policing, and even a failed suicide attempt. She’s battled discrimination, uncertainty, shame, and conflict—all in a quest to show the world who she is on the inside.
Laverne Cox and her identical twin brother, Reginald, were born on May 29 in Mobile, Alabama. The twins’ birth year is not publicized, although some sources claim that it is 1984. Both twins were assigned male at birth and given names typically associated with men. However, Cox does not publicize the name that she was given at birth. (This decision reflects a common tendency among many members of the transgender community who no longer use the name they were given at birth.) Cox’s close friends or family respect her privacy and do not publicize her birth name. However, the actor has acknowledged that Laverne and Cox were her middle and last name, respectively, at the time of her birth.
Laverne and Reginald were raised by their hard-working, church-going single mother, Gloria Cox. Their father was not involved with the family. In a June 2014 article for the Alabama-based news website AL.com, Gloria shared, “I always worked and most of the time had a second job. There was never anything the Lord didn’t provide. I did the best I could, and things worked out.”
Education and religion were important in the Cox home. Laverne and her brother attended Council Traditional School and Wood-cock Elementary School, and the family was active in the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Laverne and Reginald were expected by their mother and community to become upstanding, responsible citizens. In a July 2014 interview, Cox told Matthew Breen of Advocate magazine, “In black communities, all the black men are going to jail or they’re gay—this is what I heard growing up.” She and her brother were encouraged to be “new black patriarchs…shining examples of what black men should be.” But Laverne didn’t feel male; even as a young child, she identified with traditionally female gender expression. Her mannerisms reflected this, and she was often bullied by her classmates.
Laverne told Vogue because I wasn’t seeing a therapist “within” my insurance company’s plan, I had to pay for 50% of my therapy (actually, all of it, and I would be reimbursed for half) but that meant my insurance company was paying for the other half. Laverne started out the billing with a diagnosis of depression (or something related to that—She wasn’t paying much attention to the diagnostic codes on the piece of paper, and She never knew what they meant).
Later she added the diagnostic code for “gender dysphoria,” a clinical term for someone whose gender identity (whether it be male or female) doesn’t match their physical body. So, now she had two items on the paper she was submitting to the insurance company: depression, and gender dysphoria. And when the time came, the insurance company paid for her prescription hormones. She was building a history with the insurance company with the hope they would cover her surgery.
Laverne talks about Medical insurance that covers their needs
Towards the end of the Obama administration, regulation changes began to cause a dramatic increase in medical coverage of care associated with the transition. This halted and went backward shortly after the Trump administration took office and reversed regulations. Large companies are often the best places to receive coverage as the insurance pool means adding coverage for the relatively few transgender people who work there adds just a few cents to premiums. Meanwhile, the value to the transitioning person is invaluable in terms of the care they receive as well as the validation of being able to see a doctor for care.
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