My favorite story of the year: A mother takes her 7-year-old trans daughter (named M.) to a speech that Laverne Cox was giving at the local town hall. To read the whole thing go here, but I’ve reprinted the takeaway below.
“Orange is the New Black” isn’t really appropriate viewing for 7-year-olds, but I had shown M. the photo of Ms. Cox on the cover of TIME when it came out last year, so M. had a vague idea that this was someone important who was also transgender. But I don’t think she really got it until we showed up for the event.
The line snaked out of the venue for half a mile. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house. We got there early enough to snag seats near the front, and when Laverne walked into the room, the crowd went nuts. M. went nuts, too, cheering and clapping for the glamorous lady everyone seemed to love so much.
I think ours were the only kids in the audience. Most of the speech went over their heads. But here’s the message that I hope got through to them: Here is someone who is talented and smart and famous and beloved by the multitudes – and she’s also like you.
A friend of a friend knew the event organizers, and she told us she might be able to sneak us into the smaller reception following Laverne’s speech. I kind of doubted that she’d remember to put our names on the list, so as M. sat on my lap, caught up in the frenzy of the crowd, I told her that she might (“just maybe”) get to meet Laverne that night.
“Really?” she said.
Our names were on the list. Laverne wasn’t there yet when we entered the private reception hall, but M. staked out a place near some doors at the far end of the room. There were multiple entrances. Why did she think Ms. Cox would come in through those particular doors? M. ignored my question and stood alone at the far end of the room, her back to me, her eyes glued to the doors.
She was right. A few minutes later, Laverne burst through those doors, and the crowd went nuts once again. But this time, a tiny person in a flowery sun dress stood between her and that crowd, looking her in the face, waiting to be noticed.
Laverne waved her Hollywood wave at the crowd, thanked us graciously, and then looked down at the little girl blocking her path.
“Well, hello,” she said.
“I’m M.,” my daughter said.
Laverne smiled down at her. “Hello, M.”
“And I’m trans,” M. said.
I don’t think Laverne saw that coming. The crowd around me gasped their approval (“Did you hear what that little girl said?”). Laverne seemed at a bit of a loss. She looked around the room. “Is anyone with her?”
I stepped forward. “I’m her mom.” Then I got tongue-tied in the face of celebrity, and forgot how to speak like a normal human. I have no idea what I said.
But M. knew what to do. She went in for a hug. Laverne crouched down to meet M.’s hug at eye level, and as I frantically snapped photos for posterity, I heard her say to my daughter, “Remember, honey, transgender is beautiful.”
Thank you, life.
Are you crying? I’m crying. What an amazing mother. What an amazing little girl. And, of course, what an amazing star we have in Laverne.