Laverne Cox Transgender Time Magazine CoverLaverne Cox looks smashing on the new cover of Time. And her interview is an illuminating must-read.

One of the most touching memories: when she was a boy, she remembers going to dance class but being barred from ballet because “ballet was too gay.” It was just one instance of gender stopping her from what she wanted, and suffering because of the attitudes of those around her.

It didn’t end there, of course. In third grade, she had an epiphany when she realized she might have to be male her whole life. Prior to that, she thought she might just develop into a girl all by herself. And in sixth grade, when she started to really be attracted to boys, she tried to kill herself.

Fortunately — for all of us — she lived. And she began leaning on her creative talents to pull her through the rough times, and started exploring androgyny in her teens.

These days, she notes, trans people are increasingly seizing control of their own stories. Previously, a lot of trans conversation was filtered through cis media, but now folks like Cox and Janet Mock are speaking out and being listened to. This fall, Cox will appear in a documentary on Logo and MTV called Trans Teen, which follows the gender-journeys of young folks between the ages of 14 and 24.

But there’s a long way to go, of course, before people really understand what trans people want to talk about. Just this year, Katie Couric probed Cox about her genitals, which is like starting an interview with Barney Frank, “so, I know we’re here to talk about your work around employment nondiscrimination, but are you into oral or anal?”

(FWIW, the Time interview does not delve into surgery or genitals or hormones, which shows remarkable restraint for a mainstream publication. Particularly one that’s read pretty much exclusively in medical waiting rooms.)

Cox ends the interview with a memory of a child she met named Soleil. Just six years old, Soleil was bullied at school in a way that reminded Cox of her own childhood. “I just thought about how young six years old really is and how innocent six years old really is,” she said. “And we need to protect our children from that and allow them to be themselves.”

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