Actress Laverne Cox opens up about transgender rights, her new role

Laverne Cox has carved a path not just for herself as an actress but for others in the transgender community defining their own identities. 

Her roles range from an inmate in Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" to a high-powered, Ivy League-educated attorney on CBS' new series "Doubt." Cox says being an actress has given her a platform to engage in activism and speak out about transgender rights. 

Over the years, she's made history as the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy in 2014 and the first to appear on the cover of TIME magazine.

Cox is one of a number of public figures whose advocacy has helped raise awareness and advance the rights of transgender men and women in recent years— markedly transforming not just the entertainment world but America's public discourse, business, law and policy. 

Here is a look at some of the recent milestones covered by CBS News:

October 2009

Then-President Obama signs hate crime legislation, the first in U.S. history to provide federal civil rights protections for transgender men and women. The legislation expands the definition of federal hate crimes to include offenses committed against people for their gender identity.

June 2009

Chaz Bono comes out as transgender. Formerly known as Chastity, the child of Cher and Sonny Bono shocked the world when he shared his struggle as a transgender male.

October 2011

The Girl Scouts of Colorado council publicly stated that "if a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout." This prompted a backlash, including calls to boycott Girl Scout cookies; however, it set a precedent for the Boy Scouts of America to take the same stand this year.

December 2012

The American Psychiatric Association removes "gender identity disorder" from its diagnostic manual, replacing it with "gender dysphoria." This was a critical step towards defining the terms associated with the transgender community and destigmatizing the idea of gender identity.

August 2013

Bradley Manning announces he is transgender and identifies as female. "As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible," the 25-year-old said in a statement." Manning was originally sentenced to 35 years in prison for sending classified military documents to Wikileaks but recently had that sentenced commuted by President Obama.

June-July 2014

Laverne Cox, a transgender actress who plays Sophia Burset in Netflix's "Orange is the New Black," is the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy. She also becomes the first transgender person to be featured on the cover of TIME Magazine.

April 2015

Bruce Jenner comes out as transgender. Now known as Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic gold medalist appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair and launched a reality TV show, "I am Cait," that chronicled her transition. She won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs in Los Angeles in July 2015 and has remained a vocal activist for the transgender community.

August 2015

The Obama administration appoints the first openly transgender official to serve in the White House. Raffi Freedman-Gurpsan was appointed Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel.

March 2016

A fresh legal battle over the rights of transgender people in public places is sparked when the governor of North Carolina signs the controversial HB2 law, also known as the "bathroom bill," preventing transgender individuals from using public bathrooms according to the gender they identify with. Some corporate leaders opposed the bill and entertainers including Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam boycotted the state in protest.

June 2016

The Pentagon announces that transgender people will be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military. Then Defense Secretary Ash Carter made the announcement and laid out an implementation plan. Carter said, "Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so."

January 2017

The Boy Scouts of America announced they will allow transgender boys to enroll in its boys-only programs. This shift came just a month after an 8-year-old transgender boy was asked to leave a Cub Scouts troop.

February 2017

The mayor of a Texas town came out as a transgender woman in an open letter to residents. Jess Herbst is believed to be the first openly transgender mayor in the state's history. She detailed the experience further in a Facebook post.

transgender doll based on Jazz Jennings, of the TLC show "I am Jazz," is introduced at the New York Toy Fair.

And the Grammys adds the first transgender presenters at the awards ceremony. The president of the Recording Academy said in a statement that the idea of a "trophy girl" felt "antiquated" and that "the ability to present a trophy has nothing to do with one's gender."