washington and lee

Laverne Cox Knows My Name

No, I’m not kidding.

As a handful of you know, I’m from Lexington, VA originally. Last night Laverne spoke at Washington and Lee University, one of the local colleges, and the school is also where my mom works as a human resources coordinator. For the last several years, my mom has helped the retirees from the college figure out their health insurance plans and how to best plan for the worst case scenarios. It’s my mom’s job to make sure people have happy and healthy lives, and she works tirelessly.

Since my mom works at W&L, she gets first dibs on on-campus events, like Laverne’s. I was jealous beyond belief that my mom was able to go see her speak. She even messaged me before the event began, and I told her I was so jealous I could die. I’ve also missed Kristen Beck, another trans woman I deeply admire and respect. So safe to say I was stewing. I told my mom if she, somehow by the grace of God, got the chance to speak to Laverne, to tell her that I absolutely love her and all her work, from acting to activism. I didn’t think she’d get the chance, though.

Boy, was I wrong.

I was on Skype with a dear friend when I got a frantic text from my mom telling me to call her. I quickly hopped off Skype, and called my mother to make sure everything was ok.

She was smoking in her car trying to calm down. She told me that there was a Q&A after Laverne’s talk, and my mom wanted to ask her what she could do as a parent to better support me, her trans son, and the community at large.

But right before she went to speak, there was a man who went before her. From what my mom told me, this guy basically said he didn’t get. To him, women were born women. Men were born men. There was no cross over. “I just don’t understand,” is what my mother told me he kept saying.

Once it was her turn, my mom said that it seemed like the guy’s comments had bothered Laverne, and I can’t say I’d blame her if that were true. It’s hard to come in and be vulnerable to strangers, and to know that some of them will probably reject you.

So instead of asking her question, my mom decided to talk about her journey with me as I’ve figured myself out over the years. She told me that started out by giving a cliff notes version of our story. Mom told me she said something along the lines of, “My youngest child was born of the female sex. At 8 years old, she came up to me one day and said that she felt like a room that didn’t have any furniture in it. At 14, she came out as a lesbian. And at 21, I consider my son to be born.”

My mom told me that talking about me made her, Laverne, and probably everyone else in the room cry. God knows I had tears streaming down my face as she recounted the evening.

As she finished, she said, “Oh, and my son absolutely loves you!”

AND THEN LAVERNE COX, BEAUTIFUL GODDESS OF LIGHT AND LOVE, ASKED HER WHAT MY NAME WAS!!!!

So she told her. Laverne Cox spoke my name, and knows I exist.

Words can’t even begin to express how proud I am of my mother. She stood up for me, for people like me, and made herself vulnerable to people she didn’t know. She told my story, our story, and moved a lot of people. I emailed with my mom this morning, and she said all of her work study students were hugging her, and other people in her building were approaching her to say they’d heard her speak. Mom said after the event, she had people came up to her to hug her that she didn’t even know.

It hasn’t always been easy with my mother. We fought quite a bit when I was younger, especially after I came out the first time. She didn’t understand how I could know something like my sexual orientation at a young age. We argued, grew apart, but I knew she always loved me underneath it all.

The same thing happened when I told her I was transitioning, though not to the same extent. I wrote her a three page letter explaining everything, and handed it to her before I got on a plane to live in Guatemala for the next three months. My mom struggled with the news, and I honestly think it was better she had time to deal with it away from me. It gave her time to really think her feelings through, and not have to worry about dealing with me at the same time.

I always joke and tell people that I broke my mom, and that’s why she’s been so accepting since I transitioned. The real answer, however, has nothing to do with me. I was blessed enough to be born to a mother who learned the key lesson that Leelah’s, and countless other trans youths’ parents failed to learn; you cannot be a bigot AND love your child.

So my mother put away her biases and fears as much as possible, and dove headfirst into my world. Through a combination of her own research and conversations with me, I’ve watched my mom blossom into this wonderful, loving mother who truly loves and accepts me for exactly the person I am. The road has been rough in a few places, and this journey is one that never truly ends, but I’m so happy I have my mom by my side. She’s made me prouder than I could ever articulate. I love her so much.

And that’s how Laverne Cox learned my name. Because of my amazing, brave, incredible mother.

The Washington Post reports:

Washington and Lee University expressed regret Tuesday for the school’s past ownership of slaves and promised to remove Confederate flags from the main chamber of its Lee Chapel after a group of black students protested that the historic Virginia school was unwelcoming to minorities.

And the question is: What took them so long?