OITNB's Laverne Cox on Transgender Movement: 'I'm Not Alone Anymore'

ABC News' Byron Pitts interviews "Orange is the New Black" actress Laverne Cox on whether the country has reached a transgender tipping point, plus National Center for Transgender Equality's Mara Keisling and Rolling Stone's Sabrina Rubin Erdely on changi
6:24 | 08/17/14

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Transcript for OITNB's Laverne Cox on Transgender Movement: 'I'm Not Alone Anymore'
I'm finally who I'm supposed to be. Do you understand? I can't go back. "Orange is the new black." One of its breakout stars, Laverne cox. A woman born biologically male became the first transgendered Emmy acting nominee. There she was on the red carpet just last night. She didn't win, but she's using her fame to shine a spot light on transgender issues. Here's ABC's chief national correspondent Byron Pitts. You've got the wrong girl. Reporter: She's one of the stars of netflix's show, "Orange is the new black." Actress Laverne cox. A transgender woman in real life playing a transgender inmate in a female prison. So many people say they see themselves reflected in this character. Reporter: Her role is one of a number reflective of the transgender community now coming of age in mainstream America. On Broadway, Neil Patrick Harris winning a Tony for his performance in "Headwig and the angry inch." Online, Facebook users now able to choose between 56 different options for gender identity. And in fashion, Barney's department store featuring an ad campaign with transgender models. All a far cry from cox's childhood as a young boy in Alabama. I was bullied. I internalized a lot of shame. About who I was as a child. Reporter: Bullied because? Because of my gender expression. Because I didn't act the way someone assigned male at birth was supposed to act. There's a cultural environment where trans people are told who we are is a mistake. We should try to be someone else. Reporter: It's estimated there are nearly 1 million transgendered men and women in America. Many of them teenagers, like Michael and Isaac. I wasn't a girl except physically. I don't have to live a lie anymore. I suffered for so many years because people said it was just a phase and that I would grow out of it. When I look in the mirror now, I see myself. Reporter: High school classmates, Isaac and Michael were born girls. They came out to the world as transgendered in a youtube video. I've been living more like a guy since elementary school. It used to be thought 1 in 40,000 people had gender dysphoria. Now surveys are suggesting it may be as high as 1 in 250. Reporter: Gender dysphoa. Now a medical diagnosis for those feeling a disconnect between their assigned and perceived gender. Despite growing research, there is pushback. California's controversial law ab-1226, allows transjendered children to use facilities and participate in activities based on their gender. We want to protect all children. Especially the 99% having their privacy invaded by this intrusive law. Reporter: According to the latest polling, 89% of Americans agree, transgendered people deserve the same legal rights and protection. Even defense secretary chuck Hagel waded into these ever-shifting waters. Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity. Reporter: As for Laverne cox, her success on television has given a voice to many who once felt voiceless. Having your story told validates you're experience. It's like, I'm not alone anymore. Maybe I'll be okay. Reporter: For "This week," Byron Pitts. ABC, Kansas City. Here now, Mara Kiesling and Sabrina ruben-erderly, who has covered this issue extensively. Thanks to both of you for being here. Mara, you have been active on this issue for at least a dozen years. Now, you say we've come to the point "Time" magazine says we're at a tipping point. You have had progress in courts. Laverne cox coming in and being nominated for an Emmy award. What is your sense? Have we reached a critical moment here now for this movement? I think absolutely. And we're winning policy change. Faster than we ever thought we could. The culture is changing really, really fast. But still, the truth is, while that's happening and while that's all great and important, there are a million tragedies happening every day with people having judges take away their kids because they're trans. People being disrespected out on the street. People being murdered. We had one of the worst months of transgender murders this past June. All this summer has been a bad month for violence. That stuff is still going on. Maybe that's partly because there are so many more of us out there educating and living our lives. And Sabrina, you have written a lot about the challenges. This is still a very marginalized community. Absolutely. This new acceptance of trans people is certainly something to get very excited about. But bear in mind, it flies in the face of the most basic day-to-day reality of most trans people. They face a shocking amount of violence. Trans people make up maybe 10% of the lgbt community. But they make up a shockingly huge disproportionate number of the hate crime statistics. How are institutions handling this? I ask you as a Vassar college graduate. How are women's colleges? Are they accepting transgendered females? On the collegiate level, there's been a huge acceptance of transgender women. There's been a lot of accommodation for, um, bathrooms and, uh, dorm rooms. Um, but I think that, um, one place where there's been a good deal of progress has been, it's been interesting to see how it's been playing out in terms of transgender. The parents of gender nonconforming kids. Now that there's a new awareness of the kinds of harms that come to transgender people, that they're more likely to be homeless. That they're more likely and there's a cascade of harm that can come to them once they're hopeless. They're more likely to be at risk for drug addiction. Suicide. That, parents are now -- being much more supportive of their kids' decisions to live as their preferred gender.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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