MTPC Meets Janet Mock!Posted by: Tre'Andre Valentine | Posted on: February 26, 2014
by Aaron, MTPC intern
Authenticity and representation were central themes of Janet Mock’s speech at Simmons College last Thursday, entitled “Our Voices in the Movement: A Legacy at Intersections.” As part of a publicity tour following the release of her New York Times-bestselling memoir, Redefining Realness, which details her experiences growing up as a young trans girl, Mock spoke to a packed audience about the importance of visibility for transgender women of color, aka #girlslikeus.
The author and activist paid tribute the contributions of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and “living legend” CeCe McDonald, and spoke about the strength that authors like Audre Lorde, bell hooks, and Maya Angelou gave her while growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii. Without media representation, these activists and writers were able to help Mock form her identity and confidence as a young trans woman of color.
Mock also spoke to the power that she and other trans women of color have and what it means to claim an authentic existence. She explained, “trans women are women and trans people are exactly who they say they are.” However, not everyone reacts respectfully trans women who claim their identities, Mock explained, referencing CNN news anchor Piers Morgan’s response to being called out on Twitter after distorting Mock’s story during an interview.
She went on to discuss the hardships that transgender people, particularly trans women of color, encounter. Quoting bell hooks, Mock said, “Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power—not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.”
That is where Redefining Realness comes in. As a writer, Mock sees popular culture as a useful platform to spread awareness about trans issues. She delivers her story with honesty and wit, hoping that others will learn from it and connect to her experiences. Speaking your own truth, Mock said, is one of the most important things trans people can do.
In a brief Q&A session following the speech, Mock thoughtfully responded to a question about how cisgender allies can respectfully write stories featuring trans characters. She explained that cis writers can help by using their writing skills to help trans people tell their stories directly. Her advice to the trans people who might be scared to share those stories: “Never underestimate the power of your voice.”
Check back on our blog Friday for a reading list of trans people telling their own stories.