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Orange Is the New Black: Laverne Cox on trans solitary confinement

Plus, Cox on LGBT data collection: ‘Counting us is a very basic way to affirm that these lives matter’

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Comedy Central

In the most recent season of Orange Is the New Black, we got an extended and horrifying glimpse at trans inmate Sophia Burset’s life in solitary confinement. On Wednesday night, Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia on the Netflix series, stopped by The Daily Show to discuss how the show approached trans incarceration, specifically how it differs from reality.

“Usually trans women are housed in men’s prisons. It is very rare that trans women are in women’s prisons like my character, Sophia Burset. And often, trans women are placed in men’s prisons and are then placed in solitary confinement for our protection. Prison officials reason that it’s probably not safe for a woman to be in a men’s prison,” explained Cox. “Human rights folks all over the world agree that solitary confinement is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment, which is a violation of our eighth amendment.”

To prepare for her Sophia’s storyline this season, Cox researched the side effects of solitary confinement, which include hallucinations, paranoia, and suicidal tendencies. “I hope we do a good job on the show of bringing you into Sophia’s mind state and the state of mind for people who are in solitary and what that does for someone,” she said.

Cox and Trevor Noah also discussed the Doubt actress’ support of the LGBT Data Inclusion Act, which would require governmental agencies to actually collect data on sexual and gender identity in order to accurately determine how many LGBT people exist in the United States. She believes this kind of data collection could improve many lives and prevent the spread of misinformation.

“Data collection is another way to tell stories about who LGBT people are, about the disparities that we experience,” she said, adding that she also wants people to feel safe proudly declaring that they identify as LGBT. “Counting us is a very basic way to affirm that these lives matter.”

Before she left, Cox opened up about why she was so excited to be cast as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in Fox’s production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which will air in October. “I discovered this movie, and this character Dr. Frank-N-Further became a blueprint for me. The song ‘Don’t Dream It, Be It’ became my own personal mantra,” she said. 

Watch the full clip below: