Culture / Entertainment / Media

Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera: Grace Under Fire You may have seen that Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox were on The Katie Couric Show to promote their current projects.  Carmen Carrera is trans* model of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame and Laverne Cox is a trans actress who portrays a trans* inmate on Orange Is The New Black.

LaverneCox-KatieCouricShowKatie Couric made several well-meaning missteps during the interview, but what was really cringe-worthy was how she repeatedly tried to bring the conversation back to transition/surgery/private parts.  At one point she actually said, “Your private parts are….?” And I found myself yelling at the screen, “PRIVATE! Hence the name!”  Amazingly, both Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox not only maintained their poise, but they handled the questions with such grace it made me think about how I handle similar situations.

They did not get defensive.  They set firm limits, but were still gentle with their responses.  They redirected the conversation to more appropriate subjects, but also explained why they were doing so.  It was awesome to watch.  (NY Mag’s The Cut has the key clip here.) That is how I want to handle invasive (usually well-intentioned) questions.  And usually I do.  Usually.  Apparently, though, I would not have kept my cool if I were the one being interviewed by Katie Couric.  How do I get from yelling at the television to calmly, respectfully and directly addressing ignorance?

My guess is that this isn’t the first time that either Ms. Carrera or Ms. Cox have had to field these types of questions.  And just as I have had all too much practice answering/shutting down questions about my own sexual identity or reproductive process, I’m sure most LGBT people have crafted their “elevator speech” for misguided would-be allies who stumble into inappropriate territory.  Where I am less able to keep an even keel are on subjects that I have had less personal experience with.

It’s a good reminder that there is more to being a good ally than just deciding you oppose prejudice.  I try to educate myself about issues that I don’t experience everyday – but I think I might need to go a step beyond and actually craft the exact response I want to have prepared.  It sounds cheesy, but I could benefit from some role-play on how exactly I want to call out racism, ableism, transphobia, etc.  I want to be an ally who speaks up, but I don’t want to blow my opportunity to change hearts and minds.  That requires patience and peace – and that requires practice.


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