“I am a person of color, working-class, born to a single mother, but I stand before you tonight an artist, an actress and a sister and a daughter, and I believe that it is important to name the multiple parts of my identity because I am not just one thing, and neither are you.”
Ariel sat in the back seat of my car staring down at her cell phone, her black bangs covering her eyes. Todd sat next to me as I drove, equally transfixed by his phone. I was expecting a more celebratory mood as we made our way out of Minneapolis. I didn’t know much about Ariel and Todd, only that they both identified as LGBTQ and had experienced homelessness; we had recently met through a host home program that I work with. Now, we were on our way to Minnesota State University to hear Laverne Cox speak.
As way to break the awkward silence in the car I asked Ariel and Todd if they were fans of Orange Is the New Black. They both shook their heads. Cox, a breakout star from the hugely popular Netflix series, is a self-described ‘proud, African-American transgender woman.’ Neither of them had seen it. Did they watch Laverne when she was on VH1’s I Want to Work for Diddy? No, they both said. Why then, I asked, had they agreed to this trip to see her tonight?
'Because she’s a celebrity,’ Ariel responded, briefly glancing up. 'I’ve never met a celebrity. And she’s trans like me.’