In the lead up to the announcement of Time's 100 Most Influential People, it looked as though Laverne Cox really had a chance to make the list. She seemed to be getting a strong push online from lots of different quarters, but should she have been named to the list?
The Time 100 seems to be viewed as an honor. However, Time itself has repeatedly said that is not an honor at all; it simply refers to people who are the most influential—for good or for ill. Two of the "for ill" individuals on this year's list (in my opinion at least) are Vladimir Putin and Rand Paul, and previously Kim Jong Il has been on the list. This isn't exactly a "gold star" sort of award.
So, let's be honest, I'm pretty much in awe of Laverne Cox. Am I a bit too star struck? Probably. Is there something of a band wagon approach I'm following? Okay, maybe. Is she influential on me? Absolutely. But let's ask ourselves the same question as Time is asking: on the global stage, is Laverne Cox one of the 100 most influential people in the year 2014?
While it pains me to admit this, the answer to that question is no. Now, if you asked me if Laverne Cox was one of the 100 most influential LGBT people in the United States? Slam dunk. One of the 100 most influential trans people in America? She made that list in 2013! World wide? Restricting ourselves to trans people? Probably, yes. Although it seems to me it would be fairly hard to get enough data from various nations to test such a claim. One of the 100 most influential LGBT people world wide? ...Probably not. Maybe. But probably not. Can we even identity the 100 most influential LGBT people world wide in the first place? I have my doubts.
It seems to me that Cox is a fairly "local" phenomenon. By local, I don't just mean the United States in terms of territory, but rather I mean a more nebulous concept of English-speaking, Americentric progressive communities. I'm 7000 miles away from the US, but I know of Cox because of my engagement in an English-speaking, Americentric progressive community. I watch her show because I discovered it in that community. I learned her personal story from interviews within that cultural milieu. I have communicated with her via social media, again, a part of that aforementioned community. She has tremendous influence within that community, and elements of that influence are seeping out to those outside of the community in question.
Those elements are not enough to satisfy the requirements of a place on the Time 100. She is not a politician in charge of a major nation state, nor of a minor nation state which has come into the news over the past year. She is not a business mogul influencing the companies which have directed the consumption habits of millions, even billions, of people world wide. She is an artist, an actress, but not one with the reach of the artists included on the list. At least, not this year.
My conclusion that she doesn't warrant inclusion (even though, disclaimer, I voted for her in the poll!) is based not on her, but on the requirements set out by Time. No one should see this as an insult to Cox, nor a rebuke to members of the LGBT community, especially the trans and queer communities of color. This doesn't mean she isn't an influential person who is altering the dialogue within a certain sphere (a sphere very important to those of us who supported her inclusion by voting for her) it just means the world is a very, very, very big place—and we are still a very, very, very small part of it.
Unfortunately, there are many people on the list who probably shouldn't be included either for the same reasons. Time's inconsistency is troubling.
Image via AP.