The Cross Cultural-Center and LGBT Resource Center hosted a book event called “Strength/Courage/Wisdom: A Conversation with Janet Mock” as part of the 2014 Deconstruction Series on Wednesday, April 30.
This event introduced the New York Times bestselling author Janet Mock to have an honest and raw talk about her book, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More” with the audience, a personal narrative that details her life as a trans woman of color. Mock is a writer and advocate who has been sharing her experience as a trans woman of color through her book tour and has given speeches and interviews all across the country. Previously, Mock worked as a Staff Editor at People magazine’s website and graduated from New York University with an M.A. in journalism. She has recently been featured on MSNBC, Colbert Report and other news organizations in addition to contributing to Slate and Colorlines.
The talk was a part of the Cross- Cultural Center’s Deconstruction Series focusing on addressing many different issues that exist in today’s society, such as racism, sexism, homophobia and classism. The event was formatted to be a casual conversation, fitting the event title, between Mock and Deejay Brown, the program coordinator for the LGBT Resource Center and started off with an introduction from the LGBT Resource Center Director David Bishop.
Mock entered the front of the room, and she and Brown led a conversation about her book. She started her conversation by highlighting a specific chapter from her book stating, “it’s a chapter that I love so much because it’s the first time that I stepped forward fully as Janet.”
Mock spoke about her memories of her youth, from her successful election to student government to her painful experience with a chemistry teacher who would not respect Mock and her identity. She read a passage about this experience stating, “Though most of my teachers were on board with role modeling in the classroom, I can still feel the sting of my chemistry teacher purposefully calling out ‘Charles’ every morning during role call, to the giggles of my peers,” Mock said. “He went as far as blaming me for putting a target on my own back for dressing the way I did, but I knew even as a teenager that my femininity was more than just adornments; they were extensions of me, enabling me to express myself and my identity.”
Mock talked about coming out as trans to her family and what it was like to navigate the health care system in her youth.
“My point of struggle was for poverty, often times, and a lack of access to health care and also being a young person too. A young person who is so determined to be herself. And I began taking hormones behind my parents’ back because they didn’t understand,” Mock said, “Also being a 15, 16-year-old and going into sex work and choosing to do sex work to take care of myself as a young person.”
She went on to explain that her father had a difficult time accepting her, however, he mother and brothers became very supportive.
“I had help and I was lucky in the sense that my mother didn’t kick me out when she heard that I was taking hormones when I came out as a trans. Other trans women going through what I did didn’t have the same break. And so throughout the book there is a sense of survival and resistance and resilience. I think I illustrate in the book a lot about the underground railroad of resources that kind of helped me and I think a lot of trans women of color and people of color people to survive this fight. To move past survival, that’s why I hope to create a model for that to say that our systems are just as valued, just as valid.”