As a black trans woman, Laverne Cox knows just how lucky she is to be alive.
“I understand that I’m very lucky,” Cox told Self for the magazine’s October cover story. “I understand that I’ve been chosen. It makes me sad... it’s very intense.”
The “Orange Is The New Black” actress also discussed her survivor’s guilt with The Cut for the magazine’s Women and Power series, telling the outlet she’s sometimes ambivalent about her success when she remembers the violence trans people continue to experience.
“The month I was on the cover of Time magazine, five trans women were killed,” Cox told The Cut. “So I felt a lot of survivor’s guilt. A feeling like, Why me?”
Survivor’s guilt is all too real for trans people, who face a much higher rate of violence due to their gender identity. Around 1 in 4 trans and genderqueer people will be assaulted in their lifetimes, and rates are even higher for trans women and trans people of color, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Trans and non-binary people also face a higher risk of sexual assault, poverty and suicide. Twenty nine transgender people were murdered in 2017 alone, and 2018 is on its way to being the deadliest year on record for non-binary people.
Cox illustrated just how insidious this violence can be by recalling an experience she once had with a man at a bar. The actress met a group of men at a bar in New York City, and one of them bought her a drink, she told The Cut.
“His friends went outside and we started making out, and I hadn’t gotten a chance to disclose that I’m trans,” Cox said.
“It all happened really quickly, and I freaked out and just ran out of the bar and down the street. I kept imagining his friends coming in and murdering me,” she said. “I was just like, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to get killed at Churchill Tavern on 28th Street in Manhattan by this group of white men.’ This is what trans folks are walking around with.”
Cox also described how she cannot go to marches and protests due to the risk of potential violence.
“I have a lot of guilt about that. But as a black trans woman, me getting arrested is different. Trans people experience horrible shit in prison,” she said. “My friend Matt McGorry recently got arrested in a march and I’m like, A straight white man can go get arrested; black trans women can’t be in jail. The point of that is that I have to know that my contribution is going to be different from other people.”
Head over to The Cut to read Cox’s full interview.