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upworthy

laverne cox

Laverne Cox in 2016.

When kids are growing up they love to see themselves in the dolls and action figures. It adds a special little spark to a shopping trip when you hear your child say “it looks just like me.” The beaming smile and joy that exudes from their little faces in that moment is something parents cherish, and Mattel is one manufacturer that has been at the forefront of making that happen. It has created Barbies with freckles, afro puffs, wheelchairs, cochlear implants and more. The company has taken another step toward representation with its first transgender doll.

Laverne Cox, openly transgender Emmy award winning actor and LGBTQ activist, is celebrating her 50th birthday May 29, and Mattel is honoring her with her very own Barbie doll. The doll designed to represent Cox is donned in a red ball gown with a silver bodysuit. It also has accessories like high heels and jewelry to complete the look. Cox told Today, “It’s been a dream for years to work with Barbie to create my own doll.” She continued, “I can’t wait for fans to find my doll on shelves and have the opportunity to add a Barbie doll modeled after a transgender person to their collection.”


Cox has spent her career breaking barriers and being a role model for transgender people who may not have had the courage to reach for their dreams. Seeing someone on the screen that represents their struggle winning awards and being accepted could be the push someone needs to step out of their comfort zone. But Cox wasn’t always so confident. The reason it was so important for her to have her own Barbie doll came from a conversation she had with her therapist around the shame she felt growing up.

Recalling the conversation in her interview, Cox said, “I was telling my therapist how I was really shamed by my mother when I was a kid when I wanted to play with a Barbie doll but I was denied. And I had a lot of shame and trauma about that,” Cox said. “And my therapist said to me, ‘It is never too late to have a happy childhood.’ She said, ‘Go out and buy yourself a Barbie and play with her. There’s a little kid that lives inside of you. Give her space to play.’ And I did.”

In an attempt to help our kids grow up happy, parents will make mistakes. After it was revealed to her that Cox felt shamed for her love of dolls as a child, Cox's mother attempted to correct her previous misstep. The actor revealed that her mother started buying her Barbie dolls as gifts. “My mother bought me a Barbie doll. And on my birthday, my mother bought me another Barbie doll. For the next several years, she would always give me Barbies,” Cox said.

Cox continued, “Barbie has been a really healing experience for me as an adult and I hope Barbie fans of all ages can find healing and inspiration in this doll,”

The Barbie was released May 25, and can be found at Walmart, Target, Amazon and MattelCreations for $40.

Representation in television matters. It empowers the voiceless, challenges stereotypes, and inspires people in very real ways.

"The day I saw Whoopi Goldberg on television, I cried so hard," comedian Leslie Jones told co-hosts on "The View" in July. "Because I kept looking at my daddy going, 'Oh my God! There's somebody on TV who looks like me! She looks like me! Daddy! I can be on TV. I can be on TV. "

When the Primetime Emmys air on Sept. 18, 2016, you'll notice at least one person of color is nominated in every single leading acting category (that's never happened before!), and a notable 25% of all acting nods went to non-white performers — an improvement from last year and 2014, and much more diverse than the overall figure throughout history.


This landmark year wouldn't have been possible without those who broke barriers first.

From José Ferrer to Gail Fisher, from Peter Dinklage to Laverne Cox, countless performers have helped blaze the trail for future generations, making it that much easier for people of color, LGBTQ artists, those with disabilities, and more, to follow their dreams all the way to the Emmy stage.

Here's a timeline of some of our favorite, most notable Emmy firsts:

The awards were for Most Outstanding Television Personality, the Station Award for Outstanding Overall Achievement, a Technical award, the Best Film Made for Television, and Most Popular Television Program. A special Emmy was also given to the statue designer.

Just four years after the first Emmys, José Ferrer was nominated for Best Actor.

Danny Thomas won Best Actor Starring in a Regular Series for his role in "Make Room for Daddy."

Ethel Waters was nominated for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her work in "Route 66."

Gail Fisher won Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Drama.

Rita Moreno won Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Variety or Musical for her work in "The Muppet Show."

Isabel Sanford was nominated for an Emmy seven times in total for her role in "The Jeffersons."

Marlo Thomas won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Special for her work in "Nobody's Child."

This year, Tracee Ellis Ross is up for an Emmy in the same category, making her the first actress of color to be nominated since Ferrera, who was also nominated in 2008 as well.

Peter Dinklage took home the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.

Laverne Cox was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.

Drama categories at the Emmys remain stubbornly behind the times on the diversity front, which made Viola Davis' win that much sweeter.

A win by Aziz Ansar for his role in "Master of None" would make an even bigger splash in the history books, while A&E's "Born This Way" already took home Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program this year.

Don't let the timeline fool you, though: We still have work to do.

Hollywood is still very white, very straight, and very cisgender (as evidenced by the Oscars).

As you may have noticed from the timeline, no actor of South, Southeast, or East Asian descent has ever won an acting Emmy, and although it's fantastic Tracee Ellis Ross is up for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy for her role in "Blackish," it's the first time a black woman has been nominated in that category in three decades. As Vulture pointed out, the coveted drama categories are still lagging on the diversity front too (just three of the 24 acting slots for dramas went to people of color this year).

What's more, the Emmy firsts above don't take into consideration the quality of the characters; many actors from marginalized groups are too often boxed into overlooked or "token" roles that allow harmful stereotypes to persist. It's still too rare to see complex, thoughtful, realistic roles created for actors who aren't white, straight, and able-bodied. We can do better.

Let's not celebrate the 2016 Emmys as the best we got. Let's use it as a springboard to make sure each year we get better at recognizing all the actors and characters who deserve their stories be told too.

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Foundations announced they're giving $20 million to trans issues. These stats show why.

These foundations just pledged a historic amount of money to support the transgender rights movement.

2015 has been a breakout year for the visibility of transgender people.

Laverne Cox and Janet Mock. Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Cosmopolitan.


President Obama became the first president to even utter the word "transgender" during a State of the Union address. Transgender model Andreja Pejic was featured in a Vogue photo spread. And former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner took the cover of Vanity Fair to accompany an in-depth interview about coming out as a transgender woman. Also? "Orange Is the New Black" breakout star Laverne Cox was cast in a network TV drama, and Janet Mock was a guest on Oprah's popular show "Super Soul Sunday." And that's just to name a few!

Visibility of trans folk and their issues is one thing, but financial resources to make real progress? That's been in short supply. Which is why this is completely awesome:

A group of nonprofits including the Arcus and NoVo foundations recently announced they're putting $20 million toward transgender issues over the next five years.

Trans activist CeCe McDonald (left) and Katie Burgess of the Trans Youth Support Network. Image via National LGBTQ Task Force/YouTube.

It's about time. Transgender leaders and their movement have been dramatically underfunded. And the need for resources has only increased because with more visibility comes, unfortunately, more backlash. More funding means being able to push back against harmful campaigns like ones that frame transgender people as sexual predators so they can't use gender-segregated bathrooms. (Yep, that happens.) It also means being able capitalize on the moment to push for better policies.

To be sure the money really has an impact, the nonprofits are funneling it directly to the community.

Photo by Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images.

Instead of going to organizations that include the T in LGBT as a part of their broader agenda, the money will be directed right to the people who know what trans people need best: transgender leaders and groups.

A report from Funders for LGBTQ Issues found that funding for trans issues is at a record high, with $8.3 million in funding in 2013. No small sum, but that only amounts to 0.015% of all foundation funding in the past 10 years. With the guidance of trans advisors, this coalition will give that percentage a much-needed boost.

The money is meant to empower grantees in a push for meaningful change — both culturally and legally — that will improve the lives of transgender people.

Photo by Ted Eytan/Flickr.

Visibility is good because it's a sign of cultural change and acceptance, but it isn't enough. That's why the coalition is focused on creating long-lasting change with an eye to these issues:

Economic justice: Transgender people are much more likely to be homeless, live in poverty, and experience workplace discrimination and harassment. A whopping 90% of trans people have experienced workplace harassment and discrimination. Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that trans people are four times as likely to live in extreme poverty, earning less than $10,000/year.

Improving access to health care: The widespread discrimination that transpeople experience takes a toll on both their physical and mental health. 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide, which is exponentially higher than the general population's 1.6% rate. And about half of trans people find themselves playing the role of teacher when they seek health care because so many providers are clueless when it comes to addressing trans needs.

Ending violence: What's often left out of the mainstream conversation about trans issues is that transgender folks — especially trans people of color — face an extremely high rate of violence. A National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report found that almost three-quarters of hate violence homicide victims are transgender women, who largely underreport it because they are likely to experience additional violence at the hands of police.

These statistics show just how necessary this funding is.

Photo by Ted Eytan/Flickr.

That $20 million will allow nonprofits and leaders to get meaningful policy on the books that would require transgender people to be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve. And if people don't want to follow non-discriminatory policies? Funding for organizations like the Transgender Law Center will help trans people get representatives fighting for them in court.

The funders hope this new financial commitment will create a domino effect in the philanthropic community.

Hopefully, this will just be the beginning. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Jason McGill of the Arcus Foundation said, "Transgender leaders and their movement have been dramatically underfunded. We anticipate that other funders will join us."

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see the impact of this much-needed change.