Students and community members are still talking about the break through lecture and beyond sold out speech of actress Laverne Cox, a transgender woman who stars in the Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black.” They met on Monday to discuss what they learned and many students say it opened their eyes to something they knew little about prior to her talk.
The activist is on a break from shooting the current popular show to tour the country and speak about her transition as well as transgender people in America. Buzz that this event had gained since it was announced during the summer continued through the morning of November 5th, when tickets sold out around 15 minutes after they went on sale. That same energy could be felt walking out of the Music Recital Hall after Cox spoke, as everyone seemed to feel a heightened awareness and positivity towards issues in our society.
“I’ve never known about violence towards transgender people,” Ashland resident Don Greene stated, “The numbers she shared from the beginning shocked me and caught my attention right away.” Gabe Eperson, an SOU student and Rogue Valley native, speculated on how powerful it was to have a huge celebrity come to SOU, “It almost seemed fake at first seeing her, but I know everyone was very impressed.”Sierra Mitchell, a freshman SOU student said she felt, “Incredibly inspired by Laverne. She really opened my eyes to things I hadn’t known much about before tonight.”Mitchell was not the only one who felt moved by the outspoken woman on stage. Heather Olchawa, also a student said, “She was such a presence up there. She handled questions well and connected with the audience. One thing that stood out to me was her positivity. Even in all of her stories of hard times she never feels the need to fight back with anger. She kept repeating ‘Justice and Love’ ”.
Afterwards there was an exclusive Q and A with Ms. Cox and some students were upset they weren’t permitted to attend. A handful of students from the campus group Trans Talk stood in front of the closed doors, after the event and expressed some dismay. “I’m not down about the whole night, but I wish we were permitted to be in there now,” Taylor Smith a member of Trans Talk said, “ Laverne is saving lives by just by existing. I’m very familiar with her work but actually hearing her speak with all the sass and beauty was a big deal to me.”
*Trans talk is peer support group that meets on Monday nights at 5:30 in the Queer Resource Center located in the SU basement. They welcome all trans students, questioning youth and allies to a safe place where they can learn more about themselves and connect to others.