Attack on TV star Laverne Cox shows 'it's not safe if you're a trans person'

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Laverne Cox and a friend were accosted by a man as they walked in a Los Angeles park.

Laverne Cox, the actress and advocate for LGBTQ rights, was targeted by a man who used anti-trans language as she was walking with a friend of hers in Los Angeles over the weekend. Cox is one of the most well-known transgender celebrities in the country and was the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine.

But as Cox said in a video posted on Instagram shortly after the event took place, "It's not safe in the world. ... It's not safe if you're a trans person. ... It doesn't matter who you are. You can be, like, Laverne Cox, whatever that means. If you're trans, you're going to experience stuff like this."

Cox explained that she was walking with a male friend in Griffith Park when a man approached them aggressively, asked for the time, and then asked her friend, "Guy or girl?" The friend then told the stranger, "Fuck off," and the man hit him, fleeing when Cox took out her phone to call 911.

A shaken Cox said she and her friend are safe.

The harassment and violence against Cox and her friend are a reminder that 2020 has seen the highest number of killings of transgender people in the United States since the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign began tracking them in 2013. HRC says that at least 39 transgender or gender nonconforming people have been violently killed this year. Most of the victims were Black and Latinx transgender women. Last year, at least 25 transgender and gender nonconforming people were killed in the United States.

Chae'Meshia Simms, a Black transgender woman, is one of the most recent victims. She was killed in Richmond on Nov. 23. Her father said that her death has been "tremendously heartbreaking" and that the family is "never going to stop looking" for her assailant.

HRC's report on anti-trans violence calls it an "epidemic" and urges political leaders to pass federal and state laws that prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination, improve data collection, decriminalize sex work, and introduce new police accountability measures.

The report also notes that ending anti-trans stigma is one of many ways to prevent more violence against transgender people, including eliminating the "hostile political climate" that the Trump administration has fostered through numerous policy decisions and through the words of the people who represent it.

During the National Republican Convention in August, Cissie Graham Lynch, the daughter of Franklin Graham and granddaughter of Billy Graham, gave a speech that perpetuated harmful myths about transgender people. Other political figures and candidates with records of making transphobic statements were also given speaking spots at the convention, including Charlie Kirk, founder of the right-wing student group Turning Point USA, and Kimberly Klacik, a Republican who ran for Maryland's 7th Congressional District and lost.

When transgender people are kept out of full participation in the health care system, social services, employment, and access to accurate identification documents, they're also put at risk of violence, the report says. The Trump administration has introduced rules that would deny transgender people equal access to health care and has encouraged discrimination against transgender students and transgender homeless, among many other anti-LGBTQ actions.

President-elect Joe Biden has promised to reverse Trump administration rules that are harmful to the LGBTQ community and prioritize the passage of the Equality Act, a bill prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, in his first 100 days in office.

During the last few weeks of his presidential campaign, Biden acknowledged recent killings of transgender people and said there should be "zero discrimination" against transgender people. Biden told Philadelphia Gay News that he had plans to address this violence through the collection of better data on hate crimes, strengthening of enforcement of federal hate crimes legislation, and support for state and federal efforts that would make it easier for transgender people to get accurate government identification.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.