Laverne Cox has been an amazing role model for trans youth. Her constant advocacy work has shed a lot of light on trans issues the public might not otherwise be aware of.
But even with everything she’s done, Laverne Cox still feels guilty for not doing even more.
One thing in particular that gets to her is what she calls “survivor’s guilt.” She’s, of course, referring to the experience of being a thriving trans woman when so many trans individuals are murdered every month. She recalled,
“The month I was on the cover of Time magazine, five trans women were killed. So I felt a lot of survivor’s guilt. A feeling like, Why me? I felt an obligation, so that year I said yes to a lot of things.”
But saying “yes” to things didn’t come without consequences. She worked tirelessly to bring attention to all the violence surrounding trans folks but said that constantly talking about it brought her to “a really dark place.”
She recalled a time shortly after where she started making out with a guy at a bar, only to freak out at the idea that his friends would attack her if they found out she was transgender.
“I kept imagining his friends coming in and murdering me. I don’t know if that would have happened, but I had been doing all this reading about trans women being murdered, so 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.”
Another thing she feels conflicted about? Avoiding marches. She said,
“I don’t do a lot of marches, and 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. 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.”
Laverne knows she deserves “to have a good life,” but still struggles with guilt all the time.
I think it’s something many celebrity role models struggle with: the need to take care of yourself while still doing everything you can for your movement.
Although the situation is certainly not analogous, it reminds me of a recent interview with body positive activist Tess Holliday. Tess admitted that she felt immense guilt for taking care of her body, like she was betraying her fans and the body positive movement.
Again, this is a very different situation, but it shows how much inner tension anyone who’s both in the public eye and trying to do some good in the world must feel. You want to give your whole self to the cause, to helping people, to making the world a better place. But you also need to take care of yourself. There’s a saying: you can’t pour from an empty cup. In other words, you can’t help someone else if you don’t have anything to give. And that’s why self-care must come first.
Laverne Cox has been given a wonderful platform to speak on transgender issues. She’s already doing everything she can to make the most of that platform. And she certainly has nothing to feel guilty for.
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Photo: Self magazine / Instagram
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel and when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her obsessing over her tuxedo cat Tom or hoarding drugstore lipsticks.