Transgender activist and star of Orange Is the New Black Laverne Cox — who plays the role of hairdresser inmate Sophia Burset — has graced June’s issue of Time magazine, in which she speaks about her past struggles and experiences with her sexuality and gender identification.
The star appears on the front cover of the magazine in a slim-fitting navy Herve Leger dress alongside the caption, “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s next civil rights frontier,” in which she tells her story.
“I was very feminine and I was really bullied, majorly bullied,” she told Time. “My third grade teacher called my mom and said ‘Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress.’ Up until that point I just thought that I was a girl and that there was no difference between girls and boys. I think in my imagination I thought that I would hit puberty and I would start turning into a girl.”
“Going to a therapist and the fear of God being placed in me about ending up in New Orleans wearing a dress, that was a profoundly shaming moment for me. I associated it with being some sort of degenerate, with not being successful. My mother was a teacher. She was grooming my [twin] brother [M. Lamar Cox] and me to be successful, accomplished people,” she explained.
“I didn’t associate being trans, or wearing a dress, with that, or wanting to be a girl with being successful. So it’s something I just started to push down. I wanted to be famous, I wanted to perform. Those things I really, really wanted more than anything else.”
While Cox’s acting talents have now been recognized, and she is enjoying success, her life was much harder and even more complicated while growing up.
“I learned in church that [being gay] was a sin,” she told the magazine. “I just imagined that I was disappointing [my grandmother in heaven] and it just was devastating for me. So I went to the medicine cabinet and got a bottle of pills. And took them. And swallowed them. And went to sleep, hoping not to wake up. And I did wake up, with a really bad stomachache. I don’t remember what the pills were. Whatever it was, I thought that they would kill me but they didn’t.”
Cox’s story and her character on OITNB have served as inspiration to many, and according to Us Weekly, she previously received the fifth-highest number of votes in an online poll for Time‘s 100 Most Influential People list.
To find out more of Cox’s story, read the June 9 issue of Time.