Laverne Cox encouraged Gators to embrace diversity during her Monday night speech in the University Auditorium.
Cox, a transgender advocate and actress on the hit Netflix show “Orange Is the New Black,” spoke to a crowd of about 690 about her experiences as a black transgender woman.
The speaker, sponsored by Pride Awareness Month and Women’s History Month, was paid $16,000 to discuss the intersections of race, class and gender.
“I am not just one thing, and neither are you,” Cox said.
UF statistics sophomore Michael Caputo said the idea of intersectionality was the most important part of Cox’s speech.
“A lot of times we don’t think about being multiple identities, but everyone is,” the 19-year-old said. “It speaks at a bunch of different levels. Sometimes we don’t really think about it.”
Lindsay Abbott, a 19-year-old UF international studies and Chinese freshman, said she waited in line for more than two hours to see Cox speak.
Abbott, who said she watched the entire season of “Orange is the New Black” in 24 hours, said she was interested in Cox’s social justice work and transgender advocacy, so it was worth waiting for even when it started to rain.
In her speech, Cox spoke about her childhood in Mobile, Ala. She said she dreamt about being a dancer, but her mother would not let her because it was “too gay.”
Her experiences as a transgender woman led her to offer the audience advice — “calling a trans woman a man is an act of violence,” she said.
She also discussed gender policing and being bullied for being a “sissy” because it did not fit with the typical male gender expression. However, Cox said that everyone is policed for his or her gender, not just LGBT individuals.
“What would it be like if each and every one of us decided we’re not going to be the gender police today?” Cox said. “And we’re going to allow people to be who they are and express themselves however they want to, and we’re not going to judge them.”
Cox ended her speech by encouraging audience members to have conversations with love to overcome difficult issues and understand people better.
“I think that can be a journey for each and every one of us,” she said, “that all the preconceptions we might have about people who are different can melt away, and we can just get to know people as people.”
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 3/25/2014 under the headline "Actress Laverne Cox talks race, gender"]
This story has been updated to reflect a correction. Cox was paid $16,000.