Watch Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera school Katie Couric on the preoccupation with trans bodies

We can’t wait until Friday to give a Feminist Fuck Yeah shout-out to Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera for their appearance on Katie Couric’s show yesterday. We didn’t think our crush on Laverne Cox could get any bigger, but just watch her school Couric on why the preoccupation with transition objectifies trans people and distracts from the real issues we should be discussing: trans folks’ lived experiences–which far too often include violence and discrimination.

Transcript after the jump. 

And be sure to check out segment that came before, in which Carmen Carrera gracefully stands up to Couric’s invasive questioning about her transition. Here’s hoping no other trans woman will have to shush an ignorant interviewer on television again, but kudos to these amazing ladies for handling that bullshit with such brilliance and poise.

Via Autostraddle.


Katie: So happy to see you!

Laverne: I am so excited to be here. I’m on the Katie Couric show! On my goodness.

Katie: You’re so cute. Well, we’re excited you’re excited. First of all let’s talk a little bit about the show. I’m such a fan. Love your character. Tell us about her for people who don’t perhaps watch Orange is The New Black.

Laverne: I play Sophia Burset. And Sophia is an incarcerated trans woman at Linchfield Prison. And she’s in jail for–I don’t like giving this away–but she’s in jail for credit card fraud. She used stolen credit cards to finance her transition and now she’s a prison hair stylist. And she has a wonderful back story with her family. She’s also a wife and a mother. She’s beautifully complicated and I love playing her.

Katie: I know you’re a twin and your brother got to play you on the show in a flashback. I mean, how lucky was that for the casting director?

Laverne: Right. Jenji Kohan, our creator, said in an interview, apparently there was a joke in the writing room saying, “Ok, for Sophia we want to hire a trans woman and hopefully she has an identical twin brother so we can do the flashbacks.” And this is before they even knew about me, and then when they cast me they did know that I have a twin brother and it just all sort of worked out.

Katie: And for you Carmen, is Laverne in a way a role model?

Carmen: Totally. I mean, you’re out there. You put yourself out there. I’ve met you a bunch of times, like at the GLAAD events and stuff. And she’s so like personable. You can come up to her and talk about anything. You know what I mean? And it’s good to have people like that that are trans out there, representing us in a good way.

Laverne: Thank you. God, I’m so proud of you! W Magazine. Steven Meisel. It’s big.

Katie: And you were named Out Magazine’s one of the 100 most influential LGBT in the world, which was great. And do you see yourself as a role model Laverne?

Laverne: I would never be so arrogant to think that someone should model their lives after me but the idea of possibility. The idea that I get to live my dreams out in public hopefully will show other folks that that is possible. And so I prefer the term possibility model to role model.

Katie: That’s nice. I think that’s a good way of looking at it. You know, I’m curious because I think all of us want to be educated and Carmen sort of recoiled a little bit when I asked her about her transition and she said that people who are not educated about this or familiar with transgenders are preoccupied with the genitalia question, and I’m wondering if you think that’s true and if you have the same feelings about that as Carmen does.

Laverne: I do and I was very proud of you for saying that. And I do feel like there’s a preoccupation with that and I think that the preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to really deal with the real, lived experiences. The reality of trans people’s lives is so often we are targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the national average. If you’re a trans person of color, it’s four times the average. The homicide rate in the LGBT community is highest amongst trans women. And when we focus on transition, we don’t actually get to talk about those things. There’s a young woman named Islan Nettles, who onAugust 17th, was just walking down the street with some friends minding her own business and she was cat-called by a couple of guys, and once they realized she was trans, she was beaten into a coma and five days later she died. This is a reality of so many trans people’s lives in this country. Trans women of color, whose lives are in danger simply for being who they are. And we’re looking for justice for Islan’s murder, and we’re looking for justice for so many trans people across this country. And by focusing on bodies we don’t focus on the lived realities of that oppression and that discrimination.

Katie: You’re so well-spoken about it. That’s very well put. Laverne and Carmen, thank you both so much for being here.

Maya DusenberyMaya Dusenbery is in awe of anyone who is so well-spoken on TV.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like,, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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