If you’re not a frequent reader of TIME, you’re definitely going to want to pick up an issue this week, as Orange Is the New Black star and LGBTQ activist Laverne Cox is gracing the cover. The native Alabamian appears on the cover promoting a story titled “The Transgender Tipping Point” and eloquently spoke out about issues plaguing the transgender community.
“The reality is that I don’t represent the entirety of the trans community. There’s multiple experiences and multiple relationships to one’s identity, so it’s really about listening to individuals in terms of how they define themselves and describe themselves and taking people at their word,” Laverne says in a behind-the-scenes video of her TIME cover shoot. “Being willing to let go of what preconceptions we might have about people who are different from us and taking people on their own terms.”
Laverne goes on to discuss how race and gender identity are related and how these issues should not be treated as separate, but as topics that both influence and contribute to one’s experience.
“When we look at the discrimination that transgender people face, there tends to be intersections of race and class. The homicide rate, for example, in the LGBTQ community is highest in transwomen,” Laverne continues. “And then, when we look at transwomen who are being victims of violence most, it’s usually transgender women of color. So there’s something about race intersecting with gender issues that we have to look at if we’re really interested in ending violence against transgender people in general.”
Many fans of Laverne are confused as to why she’s getting so much love from TIME after being left off their annual list of the year’s most influential people, but a spokesperson tells BuzzFeed that this story has been in the works for “months.” But, if you’re wondering if Laverne is holding onto that notion, she’s definitely not. She’s using this as a platform to encourage progress.
“I think the trans movement and the LGBT movement really has to be a social justice movement where we look at issues of race, and class, and phobia in general.”
What do you think of Laverne’s cover? Hit the comments and let us know!