In an opening to Conan’s Orange is the New Black episode from August of 2014 — almost exactly a year ago — Laverne Cox is in character as Sophia, and begins fussing with Conan’s hair. Suddenly she says she ‘admires him’, heralding him an inspiration as the ‘very first transgender talk show host’. He immediately defends himself, saying he’s not transgender. Cox responds, “But your voice is higher than mine, you’re telling me you’re not transitioning?” He responds, “No, this is my real voice. I’m a man!” Then Cox drops this line: “Mhmm…whatever you say Bruce Jenner”.
Cox has been portrayed in the news as one of Caitlyn’s biggest advocates since speaking out, and showing her true self to the public. Cox even said she spoke to Caitlyn on the phone a couple of months before the Diane Sawyer ABC special aired. She has been especially supportive over social media – tweeting, ” Sending lots of love and support of #BruceJenner and their family tonight. It is always brave to stand in one’s truth. Congrats darling”, following the ABC exclusive. She recently instragrammed a quote of Jenner’s speech at the ESPY awards with the caption “Love this. Go Caitlyn #TransIsBeautiful”. Previously Cox praised Jenner in the LGBTQ issue of Entertainment Weekly saying, “Her authenticity, her vulnerability is beautiful. Her love of family is so beautiful. Caitlyn is dynamic and has a sense of purpose and vision.” In short, Cox has been Jenner’s cheerleader both publicly and privately since Jenner began transitioning to Caitlyn.
Rewind one year: when every tabloid was personally attacking Jenner. The one person who should have been putting an end to speculation was Laverne Cox – and yet, this Conan clip exists. It was acceptable to make fun of Conan, because he was there, playing along. It was acceptable to make fun of Laverne, because she was there, playing along. But it was unacceptable to mock Bruce Jenner – who was about to change his world as he had always known it – and begin transitioning. It’s easy to stand up for someone once they’ve stood up for themselves. What takes real courage is protecting them until they find their voice.
For someone like Laverne Cox who is an outright advocate for the LGBTQ community, she should have known that if there was even a question about Jenner transitioning, making an insensitive comment like that could be detrimental. Caitlyn was likely at her most fragile state. In her speech while accepting the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award, Jenner said that she is able to take the heat and persevere, but other human beings — especially kids — who are dealing with this magnanimous time in their lives should not have to.
Maybe Cox was told to make that comment, but still, it’s only perpetuating everything that she says she goes against. She should know when to say no. Did anyone ever teach her the “If all your friends jumped off a bridge then would you too?” thing? I am a fan of Orange is the New Black and Cox’s role on the show. I am supportive of her changing the world as much as she does by being an outspoken, successful transgender person. But I’m troubled that no one has ever given this video a second thought.
It doesn’t matter that it was a 2-second comment under her breath, for all of you who think this isn’t worthy of critiquing. Wouldn’t she, of all people, know how damaging even the smallest remark is? Words are powerful. They can start wars and end wars. And Caitlyn Jenner won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for speaking out, speaking her truth and speaking to those who don’t yet have the words.
“Whatever you say Bruce Jenner”. Yeah, it is whatever she says.