This post first appeared on TwintasticWorld, a blog all about twins and curated by my fabulous, fantastic friend/gay beau Patrick Scott. Twintastic World covers the life of Patrick, who is gay, and his identical mirror image twin, Matthew, who is also gay. And! Get this! Patrick is married to Michael, who is also gay (ha!) and a twin himself. It's gay twin central. Patrick asked me to write about Laverne Cox, whom we both adore, after we found out she's a twin.....and her twin is gay. GET OUT!
I was first taken by Laverne Cox when I discovered her show, “Transform Me” on VH1 in 2010. “Transform Me” had Laverne and two other trans* women, Jamie Clayton and Nina Poon, make-over a cisgender woman.
Laverne, Jamie, and Nina would arrive at the soon-to-be-made over woman’s house in a Glambulance–an ambulance made over in the spirit of a disco ball. Each episode started off with the participant sharing her story of why she wanted a visit from Laverne, Jamie, and Nina. After the initial sharing of “this is why we are gathered today,” Nina and Jamie deconstructed the participant’s closet and make-up, and Laverne sat down for the “heart-to-heart.”
I started to adore Laverne during these “heart-to-hearts.” While Laverne, Jamie, and Nina were there to take on the external makeover of new clothes, hair, and make-up, Laverne stressed the internal transformation that was just as vital, and the most life giving part of the experience. As trans* women, Laverne, Nina, and Jamie considered themselves well qualified to help someone match their inner greatness with the external look. The transformation, Laverne would say, needed to come from the inside, bringing out who you are, having the internal and external be fully reflective of your fullest self.
The female contestant would often shed tears during these “heart to hearts” about a distorted sense of body and self, stuck in stories of self-defeat and deflated self-worth. Laverne would look at the contestant with such love and understanding. Laverne would share her own story of connecting her inner knowing of being a woman and the drive to externally express that knowing.
It was this type of moment that shifted the cisgender woman from the typical comment at the beginning of the show: “wow, I’ve never met a transgender person before” to “Oh, my God, Laverne. Please don’t leave me. You totally get me and my life.”
One episode had Jackie, a self-identified hippie, repelling down a cliff with Laverne (in an amazing outfit) leading the charge. The goal was for Jackie to face her inner fears and embrace her inner courage. Laverne, with a shared fear of heights, joined the experience to show Jackie she didn’t have to face her fears alone.
Facing fears. Embracing our fullest selves. Finding our inner courage. Connecting our interior and exterior selves. Taking life on with others by our side.
Sounds like great criteria for relationships and friendships.
Plus Laverne Cox is a twin.
(Reflective moment by Patrick, of Twintastic blog, inserted here) I love when Ashley talks about connecting our interior and exterior selves. I feel like that is exactly what trans people are accomplishing. They are completing themselves, by allowing the outside version of themselves truly represent what is on the inside. Preach it, Ashley!)
This sounds like a sermon I could preach at my church, Church of the Pilgrims (PCUSA), in Dupont Circle in D.C. We fly a rainbow flag outside our main doors, symbolizing our welcome of LGBT folks. We do this since the Church at-large has taken on practices, at times abusive, which deny the existence of and full participation of LGBT in the life of the Christian community.
The flag symbolizes Pilgrims being “OUT” so to speak with our holy welcome. This means if Laverne Cox came to Pilgrims (hopefully with her twin!) she would be fully welcomed into our Christian community to practice the ways of the faith. No “ifs”. No “ands.” No “but wait….does she have a penis or not?“
Laverne would be welcomed.
Those ways of the faith include taking risks, facing fears, embracing our fullest selves, connecting our interior and exterior, finding our inner courage, and taking all of this on not alone but in community. We take, face, embrace, connect, and find not just for our own sake but for the sake of the planet which is profoundly broken. That brokenness includes trans* folks, especially trans* women of color, who face higher unemployment rates, higher rate of physical violence, and discrimination in housing than gender-conforming people.
Thankfully, with Orange is the New Black (season two!) I can still get my “Laverne fix” and witness her embodied self.
May that embodiment be so in all of us.
Get More: TRANSform Me