Laverne Cox on Survivor's Guilt and Why She Has to Avoid Protests

laverne cox trans
credit: lev radin/

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.

Laverne recently gave an extremely open interview to The Cut about her struggle in the public eye, the trauma of being a highly visible trans woman, and 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 year. 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.

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.


Laverne Cox on What Scares Her Most About Trump

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.