Laverne Cox is sharing a personal story to highlight an indignity regularly visited upon the trans community.
In a tweet published Monday, the “Orange Is the New Black” actress wrote, “Many years ago, when I was contemplating suicide, I was planning to have a note in my pocket at the time of my death and several other notes in my home which would state my name, preferred gender pronouns and that I should be referred to as a woman in my death. My note would be clear that I should be referred to as Laverne Cox only, not any other name.”
Cox, the first openly trans actress to be nominated for an Emmy, was moved to write after reading an article by the investigative journalism site ProPublica about the practice of misgendering, or referring to transgender homicide victims by their birth names and gender, which her community refers to as “deadnaming.”
Though its story focused on police in Jacksonville, Florida, ProPublica found that of the 85 homicide cases investigated by 65 law enforcement agencies across the country, the victims were identified by their birth names or genders in 74.
“I am angered, saddened and enraged that the police in Jacksonville, Florida, and other jurisdictions don’t have policies in place to respect the gender identities of trans folks when they have been MURDERED,” Cox wrote in response to the story.
“Being misgendered and deadnamed in my death felt like it would be the ultimate insult to the psychological and emotional injuries I was experiencing daily as a black trans woman in New York City, the injuries that made me want to take my own life,” she recalled.
“This misgendering and deadnaming also impedes the investigations into these murders. Injustice on top of injustice! I have been saying for years that misgendering a trans person is an act of violence. When I say that, I am referring to cultural and structural violence. The police misgendering and deadnaming trans murder victims as a matter of policy feels like a really good example of that cultural and structural violence.”