MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): I'm curious about your advocacy and, like, when for you did your struggle lead to success and learning to advocate for yourself? Because now you do it so well for others.
LAVERNE COX (ACTRESS & ADVOCATE): I — the first protest I went to was in 2001. I'm 50 years old. A trans woman named Amanda Milan had been murdered here in New York, and that was sort of the first sort of protest and vigil I went to. So my entire adult life, I've been advocating, trying to get human rights protections for trans folks in New York City. In 2000 I was at city hall testifying, going to Albany. So it's been a part of my life before I was well-known and continues to be a part of my life. And I'm exhausted. And trans people are exhausted. There's just a lot going on. What really has called me, of course, is this latest bill from Oklahoma that would ban gender affirming care up until the age of 26. For years we've been hearing from anti-trans pundits and politicians that this is about children, that this is about protecting children, but this Oklahoma law reveals it's never been about the children. It's always been about scapegoating trans people, stigmatizing us, and criminalizing our existence, and making us not exist. We have anti-trans pundits and politicians on television every single day saying horrible things about trans people, on the internet saying horrible things about trans people, things that lead to bomb threats at the Boston Children’s Hospital. Chaya Raichik, founder of Libs of TikTok, took credit for that bomb threat. And also she boasted proudly on Tucker Carlson she is communicating with Ron Desantis’ administration and her work, her anti-trans propaganda work led directly to the Don't Say Gay bill. So the way we talk about trans people and with trans people in the media has an effect on these policies. A lot of the ways in which we are seeing trans people being talked about on the internet and in the news, those exact ways are finding — that language is finding its way to legislation. So I wanted to come on today for all those people who have the best of intentions and want to support trans people, don't know the right language, don’t know how to talk about it or are scared to say the wrong thing. We need the right language to combat this. Anti-trans folks have been setting the agenda and how we talk about this, and we need to take back the narrative and we need to do it right away. It is January 19th and there have already been 151 bills targeting trans and LGBTQ people introduced in state legislatures. Just this year alone. 151. It's January 19.
BRZEZINSKI: Wow. You have to give an education to some of these folks who are using the wrong language and saying the wrong things. What would that be?
COX: I'm not the language police.
BRZEZINSKI: Not at all.
COX: I'm not into censoring people.
BRZEZINSKI: But it's for understanding.
COX: But if we are interested in the humanity of trans people and understanding that we exist, what I would first of all say to all the people, there are so many wonderful pundits and politicians who say, well, gender affirming care for children, that's something we should debate. Children don't know. And I would actually disagree. I would say hashtag, it's none of your business. If you are a parent with a trans child, it is your business. The American Medical Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Endocrine Society, have developed wonderful protocols that have worked for treating trans children. And parents who are dealing with that can go and get that information. If you're a parent of a trans child, it's your business. If you're not, it's none of your business. What adults do with their bodies is none of their business. This is America. It should be about freedom, bodily autonomy. I'm firmly and staunchly pro-choice and we should have the right to do with our bodies what we want to in America. Even for children, that's their parents' business and doctor's business. It is not a legislator's business who doesn't know anything about it. What I would suggest, because whenever we’re debating whether trans folks should have access to health care, we're objectifying them, when we see Senators in Supreme Court confirmations talking about mutilating children, we’re objectifying children, talking about children's genitalia, which is disgusting. And when we objectify, we dehumanize. That's what this whole project has been about. Not making trans people, real human beings who exist. I exist. There's no trans question. I am not a question. I exist here. I have a material reality, lived experiences. And trans people have always existed. We're not going to stop existing if people don't teach about us. We should have acceptance. It is our business if we're discriminated against in health care, in employment, in housing, which many of these people want to do. That is our business if we believe in liberty and justice for all Americans. What people do with their bodies is none of their business.
WILLIE GEIST (CO-HOST): Laverne, you said something very important, that we have always existed. And because of your example and your advocacy, young people now grappling with these questions about their identity have someone to look to. When you and I were growing up, we're around the same age, we didn't have that.
GEIST: We didn't have people to look up to, so I'm curious what it was like growing up in Alabama. What was it like for you? What was it like to not have these examples?
COX: There was suicide attempts. There was a tremendous amount of shame. I was bullied every single day. I was chased home from school. I was beaten up multiple times. There were no trans people on television. What I did see was deeply disparaging. I didn't want to be trans. I did everything I could not to be trans. But I'm trans anyway. I grew up in an environment where there was no education about trans people, yet I was still trans and yet I found my way. Media representation, you know, stopping education about trans people doesn't stop us from being trans. I know, because I'm 50 years old and I know my history, that trans people have always, at various ages, have gotten access to gender affirming health care, but they have gotten it on the street. They haven’t gone to the doctor to get blood work. They haven't been able to do it in a healthy way. Just like with abortion. People will have abortions. But will they do it and will they be able to do it in a healthy way, becomes the question?
ELISE JORDAN (POLITICAL ANALYST): You're connecting it to women's health, which is what I prefer to call abortion because it's women's choice.
JORDAN: It's a form of health care. It's the same issue. It's limiting what doctors can provide to individuals who have made a choice.
COX: It's even referrals. So in Arkansas as well as this new law in Oklahoma, if you refer someone for gender affirming care, that can become a felony now. Just to refer someone. They don't want trans people to exist. That is really what this whole project is about and you can't make us not exist. That just doesn't work. And I also — this feels hyperbolic, but I thought a lot about it. There's been a rise in anti-semitism all over the country right now, and it's disgusting and it’s horrible. People should know that one of the first things that the Nazis did in 1933 was they burned Magnus Hirschfeld’s gender and sexuality, he was studying trans people, LGBTQ people, Lili Elbe, the Danish girl that the film was about, she had her first gender affirming procedure at Magus Hirschfeld's clinic. The Nazis burned it down. All of this research. And there were LGBTQ people in consecration camps stamped with pink triangles. So in this moment of a rise of anti-semitism, we see this documented rise in anti-trans legislation and rhetoric. These are not coincidences. So, as we fight anti semitism, as fight for reproductive rights, we have to fight for trans rights as well. They are on TV every day. We need to be more vociferous, be more engaged in this. And I know trans people are a small part of the population, but it's not unrelated to everything else that's happening. This is about justice and bodily autonomy for everybody. This is about freedom. We're Americans. This should be about freedom.