Last June Time featured a statuesque TV star on its cover. The appearance of an attractive celebrity on a magazine was nothing new, of course, but this particular actress –– Laverne Cox from the acclaimed Netflix prison dramedy Orange is the New Black –– was exceptional because of her backstory.
Cox was born a male but had felt passionately since childhood that her true identity was female. Now, as an adult and a media personality, she was living as the woman she was always intended to be. The title of the Time story was also notable for the rather bold declaration in its headline: The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier.
People who identify with and present themselves as the opposite gender are not particularly shocking news anymore. From tennis star Renée Richards way back in the 1970s to Cher’s son Chaz Bono –– who was born and raised as the female Chastity Bono –– people have long been aware of, if not always comfortable with, the small percentage of the population who don’t conform to their birth sex. What’s different about Cox –– and the 2014 transgender rights movement in general –– is that she is confident, assertive, unapologetic, and unwilling to dwell on the tabloid-y medical details of her gender transition.