On Monday, Emmy-nominated actress and LGBTQ activist Laverne Cox opened up about once contemplating suicide.
In an emotional post shared to Twitter and Instagram, Cox, a transgender woman, wrote that she had planned to leave behind notes — one in her pocket and several others placed around her home.
The notes would have stated her “name, preferred gender pronouns and that I should be referred to as a woman in my death,” Cox said.
“Being misgendered and deadnamed in my death felt like it would be the ultimate insult to the psychological and emotional injuries I was experiencing as a black trans woman in New York City,” she wrote, “the injuries that made me want to take my own life.”
She shared her story in response to a recently published ProPublica article detailing how police and other law enforcement agencies often misgender or deadname transgender murder victims.
The investigative news site’s article largely focused on the actions of authorities in Jacksonville, Fla., but ProPublica found that across the United States “some 65 different law enforcement agencies have investigated murders of transgender people since Jan. 1, 2015. And in 74 of 85 cases, victims were identified by names or genders they had abandoned in their daily lives.”
“As I read this report from ProPublica I sobbed and wept for all the trans people who have been murdered and those experiencing direct, cultural and structural violence,” Cox wrote. “I wept because I haven’t been allowing myself to. I wept for all of the violence I have experienced in my own life.”
Monica Roberts, a transgender rights advocate and journalist, told ProPublica that deadnaming not only makes it harder for people in the community to identify the victim, but it also makes police appear untrustworthy.
“If Susie is murdered, don’t use ‘Sam,’” said Roberts, who has tracked the murders of transgender women for years.
Using information, usually from law enforcement sources, media outlets have also been known to both identify transgender victims by their “dead names” and refer to them as the incorrect gender. In the section of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report dedicated to remembering victims, 12 entries for transgender women included a note that they were misgendered by local media.
Most recently in July, Orlando media, citing a press release from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, described Sasha Garden, a transgender woman who was found dead, as a “man dressed as a woman,” and a “man in a wig,” according to the Orlando Weekly. Days later, the sheriff’s office issued a statement apologizing for how it identified Garden, WFTV 9 reported.
Monica Jones, a social worker and activist, told the Arizona Republic in February 2017 that using deadnames is a “degradation of life and erases us.”